Adrenaline pumps through the crowd of runners’ bodies. They’ve arrived at 7 a.m at Haulover Beach park, far from their homes to prepare for another workout. Dozens of them jump up and down as the countdown begins, starting at 10. Some shake their arms to get loose, warming their bodies. Then the starting gun goes off.
David Vargas, Leticia Romano and Winny Delgadillo, the co-founders of Run Little Havana, began their run club a year ago. Run Little Havana is a non-profit that offers free running sessions to the community, from beginners to speed demons. They also host community-building events and health empowerment activities.
Run Little Havana members have a variety of stories to tell. The founders met way back at Shenandoah Middle School. Delgadillo ran a last-man-standing race on a trail in North Carolina this past September and completed 27 miles, far more than her original goal of 15 miles. Long-time member Carlos Osorio lost more than 50 pounds in four months.
The three founders remember gathering at the beginning of their weekly meet-ups with just six members, including themselves. That was 2022. Over the next year they’ve become a run club of just over 100 members.
“We are a team,” Delgadillo says. “We all do a little bit of something, but I will say it is real work, from trying to get sponsorships, to coming up with themed runs for our runners and finding restaurants on Calle Ocho that will allow us to host our post-run socials.”
They all grew up in the Little Havana area, becoming friends at Shenandoah Middle School. While each of them loved running on their own, getting together to do the Miami Half or the annual Turkey Trot was a normal occurrence until Leticia had brought up the idea of starting their own run club in the heart of where they grew up.
“We thought why not start our own run club in Little Havana,” she says. “We bonded over running so we just felt like this area had a great opportunity.”
The trio quickly saw their group grow every week welcoming each new member, runner or walker with open arms.
“The thing that I love the most about our group is that we are so beginner friendly,” Vargas says. “Other clubs ask for three miles and up. while we have a two-mile run or a one-mile walk.”
After the run, the club gets together at a nearby restaurant on SW Eighth Street like Far Out Pizza or Party Cake Bakery to enjoy a discounted meal as a family.
They also try to do a themed run at least once a month. In October, they had a Hispanic heritage run and on November 1, a Dia De Los Muertos run.
As a group they also try to compete in 5k’s, their most recent one was the Cafecito 5k. Vargas had recalled the morning, “It was such a great memory for all of us. A lot of us had completed new PR’s including myself and it felt awesome because I had been working my butt off for it.”
Vargas had started running just before the pandemic and he actually had a horrible experience the first time he had signed up for a 5k because he had no experience. His history with running had been on and off since that very first run.
He states “It wasn’t until the other co-founders reached out to me about starting this run club in our own little neighborhood and that was when little by little I began to up the mileage every week and actually trained to run.” He further adds “I think I have grown so much as a runner because of this club and this friendly competitiveness we have with one-another.”
One of their long time friends but also a long time member in the Run Little Havana club is 30-year-old Carlos Osorio, who also attended the North Carolina trail race with Degadillo.
“I was looking into Instagram and I saw that a friend shared a post about the run club on their social media, and that caught my attention because it seemed like a really nice and friendly run club,” shared the advanced runner, who’s recent accomplishment was winning 16th place out of 416 participants in the Cafecito 5K.
Osorio, who was originally born in Bolivia and moved to the United States at age 14, claims he was never into running, but began walking a lot more after he began working at Garmin, a fitness and sport watch company in 2019. After participating in a step activity with the company and being encouraged by a coworker to pursue running, Osorio decided to give it a try.
After the pandemic, his passion for running stemmed from wanting to embark on a weightloss journey after Osorio claims he was not content with the way he looked or felt like many others did during quarantine.
“I was not feeling great. I was a little overweight,” said the 30-year-old.
He goes on to discuss how joining Run Little Havana in 2022 became an opportunity to achieve his goal of losing weight and also helped him discover and explore his passion for running.
“It’s affected [my life] tremendously. I decided to start living my life based around running because I realized it’s my passion, so I dropped the job I was doing and found a job with a running brand called On, and I have been doing that which allows me to follow my passion more,” states Osorio.
By joining the run club and participating in consistent cardio, Osorio explained, he went from 203 pounds to 153 pounds.
When asked to describe how Run Little Havana has impacted runners, he states: “It’s been a growth altogether, like everyone is happy to see each other succeed and do better. It kinda created this strong bond, I would say.”
Osorio, who always ranks in the top 10 among the run club’s leaders and is currently training to run his very first marathon of 26.2 miles on December 3 in the 2023 California International Marathon, and hopes to inspire others who might share a similar story. He encourages them to join Run Little Havana as they might discover a love for running they might have never known was there.
Romano added that the club gas seen walkers “graduate” to running. “We are like Disney World but for runners!” she explains.
When asked if the trio ever thought their run club could even make it past 50 members. allshook their heads. Delgadillo emphasizes that she does not regret saying yes because now she actually loves running and being a part of Run Little Havana with her best friends.
Said Vargas: “I have had friends from highschool tell me that they never thought I would be so invested in running but also being a co-founder for a run club.”
Their next big run together as a club is on Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Triple Play 5k at the Miami Marlins Stadium where bystanders can sit n the stands and cheer on the clubs as the runners pass through the entire park.
The finish line ends on the field’s home plate so runners have the opportunity to bring it all “home” to their club.