New York Mom Wins Women’s Running Cover Contest

A big year of running achievements for Keysha Lleras just got bigger.

At the Westin Hotel in San Diego’s Gaslamp district, there was recently a “running concierge.” That employee does not race around the lobby but rather helps coordinate the needs of guests who like to exercise and hike in this fashion.

The amenity greatly delighted Keysha Lleras and her young daughter Hailey when they stayed there as part of the cover story shoot for the January/February issue of Women’s Running. The issue hits newsstands Dec. 20.

There were more than 3,000 entries for this year’s Cover Runner contest, powered by Jaybird with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series. The editors selected eight finalists and Lleras was the runaway winner.

The cover story written by Julia Polloreno and photographed by John Segesta is a brisk read. Here’s how it begins:

When Keysha Lleras was 8 years old, her parents, Puerto Rican immigrants, took her and her three siblings to watch the New York City Marathon. The course ran through their South Bronx neighborhood, and Lleras stood on the sidewalk wide-eyed with amazement at the athletes striding down the street. “Did I ever think I would someday run it?” she says. “Never!”

Lleras had just arrived in New York, her parents seeking a better life than what they could manage in their native country. She was an active kid, jumping into pickup football games and later running track at the public elementary school. “I grew up in a tough neighborhood and was part of a youth program that kept me motivated and out of trouble,” she recalls. When she was in the sixth grade, a teacher took her to her first race, a 5K in Central Park. She loved the thrill of finishing and returned every year to race.

The article title, “A Mighty Will,” refers mainly to some difficult marital circumstances Lleras dealt with after high school (she married young, at age 20). 2016 was a big one for Lleras as a runner. The article also features a nice sidebar with brief profiles of several of this year’s other finalists.