Gabriel Ortega of Los Angeles, California, is an ambassador for the Latinos Run community. Ortega started running in high school to prepare for the demands of life in the US Marine Corps. Years later, after he left the military, the sense of discipline stuck, and Ortega continued to run.
At first he ran for personal fitness, but soon running opened up a world of social connection for Ortega. He found accountability and satisfaction in his role as a leader and mentor, inspiring others to live healthier, happier lives.
Fleet Feet caught up with Ortega over the phone to learn more about his journey and the Latinos Run community.
Fleet Feet (FF): How did you start running?
GABRIEL ORTEGA: I’ve been a runner since high school, but I never really identified with saying I was a runner. It wasn’t until I got involved in the running community and learned of groups like Latinos Run that I started to see myself as a runner.
FF: Why didn’t you identify as a runner?
ORTEGA: We ran a lot in the Marines for physical conditioning, but I was just running because I was supposed to. When you walk away from the military you keep some of those habits in your life. Running was one of them for me, and that’s when I realized, ‘Oh, this is a part of who I am now.’
I ran to get outside, to clear my head and have time for myself. It was something I did alone. Then I met a friend and we started running together. He introduced me to the social aspect of running where people were meeting in groups, connecting online and documenting their runs. That’s when it kind of sparked for me. In 2016, I started running on a bigger level. I started promoting running to the community and getting more people involved.