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20 Women Who Are Changing The Sport Of Running (And The World)

Photo by Zach Ancell

Trisha Swanson

Tricia is in purple.

Tricia is in purple; second to right.

Creator, Bunk to 5K
Tigard, OR

Trisha Swanson proved that running is an uplifting and effective method of rehabilitation when she created the Bunk to 5K training program for prison inmates at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCC F) in Oregon. It started in 2011, when she partnered with Susan G. Komen to put on a single Race for the Cure 5K inside the prison.

Three years later, at the inmates’ request to have a regular training schedule to follow, Bunk to 5K was born. This program, which uses running to help empower inmates to lead healthy lives, is part of the larger nonprofit rehabilitation-focused Reason to Run CCC F.

Bunk to 5K prepares women for one of two inside-the-prison 5Ks—the Stomp Out Abuse 5K, which saw a record 80-plus inmates cross the finish line this spring, and the original Race for the Cure Inside 5K. Swanson earned the Outstanding Volunteer for 2016 award by the Oregon Department of Corrections and was also nominated for Foot Traffic’s Women’s Hall of Fame for her work.

“My hope [is to inspire] more women to believe that they can achieve their goals and that they are beautiful inside and out,” says Swanson. This year, the nonprofit also collected donations and has provided 34 released women with running care packages to encourage them to continue exercising.

After attending an addiction-treatment-program graduation inside the facility, Swanson says, “One of our Bunk to 5K ladies, in her speech, said how running has changed her life and is a tool she can use to continue to live substance-free.” Other former inmates credit the program with helping them change their “belief window” with what they can do after prison.

Swanson hopes to motivate other correctional facilities to start their own version of the plan. –CP

Lena Dunham

Photo by HBO/Craig Blankenhorn

Photo by HBO/Craig Blankenhorn

Actor, Writer, Producer and Body-Positivity Activist
New York, NY

Perhaps most recognizable as the creator and star of HBO’s “Girls,” Lena Dunham is somewhat of an entertainment wunderkind. At 30 years old, she’s racked up two Golden Globe Awards, become the first female to win best comedy series from the Directors Guild of America and penned a New York Times bestseller for her 2014 memoir, Not That Kind of Girl.

In 2015, Dunham took her talents to the running community, posting a photo of herself striding down a Brooklyn sidewalk. The image quickly went viral, thanks to the artist’s powerful message: “My whole life I have hated running and run like a wounded baby Pterodactyl,” she said. “[The director] decided that as Hannah evolved so would her run, so she got me a training session…Within an hour I had a different relationship to this formerly torturous activity. I felt strong, swift and proud.”

Dunham’s relationship to fitness resonated with many of us. She admitted in an interview with ESPNW that even the thought of running was embarrassing at first to a person who was not “physically engaged” as a child, something she discusses in her memoir—along with severe body-image issues and unhealthy dieting. Dunham said putting herself out there paid off: “[It] made me incredibly happy when so many women connected to that idea of getting into it with your body when maybe that’s not what’s natural for you.”

Dunham continues to empower through the feminist newsletter Lenny Letter, a project that launched in September 2015 and has since gained a massive following (hosted letters have come from Olympians like Alexi Pappas, on facing fear and pain), and the shortfilm series Lenny Shorts, which HBO will debut this fall. –CP

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