Meet Our Team Birch Runners: Valentina Ramirez

With the 2024 United Airlines NYC Half less than a month away, runners are preparing to lace up their shoes and take on the 13.1-mile stretch from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to Manhattan’s Central Park. Team Birch runners are racing in support of Birch Family Services’ mission to empower people with autism and developmental disabilities to live full lives. 

One of those runners is Valentina Ramirez, whose son is enrolled in Birch’s Long Island City Early Childhood Center. When asked if she would run for Birch in the half marathon, Valentina jumped at the chance to support her son’s school and Birch Family Services.   

What motivated you to participate in the NYC Half?

Valentina Ramirez: Participating in the NYC Half with Team Birch is truly a unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Beyond the personal challenge and thrill of the event, I am deeply motivated by the belief that my involvement contributes to a meaningful cause. Being a part of this experience not only fulfills a personal dream but also allows me to make a positive impact. I am excited about the potential to raise awareness and support my child’s school in hopes of making it better for future students, while also challenging myself to achieve new heights in my personal journey. 

Why are you running to raise funds for Birch Family Services?  

VR: I am running because my son is a student at a Birch school. Witnessing firsthand the incredible impact Birch has had on his development and well-being has fueled my commitment to support their mission. By participating in this run, I am not only expressing my gratitude for the positive influence they’ve had on my son but also contributing to the continued success of the programs and services that benefit him and other children. Each step I take is not just a run; it’s a heartfelt effort to ensure that Birch Family Services can keep making a significant difference in the lives of individuals with autism and developmental disabilities, including my own son. 

How do you prepare for long-distance runs, and what strategies do you use to stay motivated during the race?  

VR: In preparation for my first long-distance race, I am focusing on cultivating a strong walk-run ethic to ensure a sustainable and enjoyable experience. I have my playlist ready to keep me energized and maintain a positive mindset throughout the race. The unwavering love and support from friends and family serves as powerful encouragement, reinforcing my commitment to this endeavor. Embracing a sense of pride in stepping out of my comfort zone adds an extra layer of motivation. Moreover, I draw inspiration from my faith, believing that God will guide and support me along the way. 

What are some of your other hobbies?  

VR: I express my creativity through diverse hobbies: baking for delicious experiments, nail art as an artistic outlet, hairstyling for varied looks, makeup as a form of self-expression, and reading for relaxation and knowledge. 

Do you have any words of encouragement or tips for NYC Half training for other runners?

VR: Start gradually. Listen to your body, prioritize rest, and incorporate proper nutrition and hydration. Set realistic goals, celebrate achievements, and connect with a running community for motivation. Remember, mental resilience is key—believe in your abilities, stay positive, and enjoy the unique journey of preparing for a half marathon. Best of luck! 

What are you most looking forward to leading up to or on the day of the race?  

VR: I am most looking forward to the sense of accomplishment and pride that will come with crossing the finish line on race day. Completing the race will not only be a personal triumph but also a meaningful addition to my list of accomplishments. The prospect of making my family proud and inspiring my children is a powerful motivator, driving me to push through challenges during training. The journey toward this achievement is not only about physical endurance but also about setting an example for resilience and determination for my loved ones. It’s the anticipation of turning a goal into reality and the joy of sharing that victory with those who matter most that fuels my excitement leading up to the race. 

You can support Valentina’s fundraising efforts here