Looking to elevate opportunities for females in sport and epitomize the brand’s “We Got Now” platform, New Balance recently introduced The Stolen Starts, a spirited group of 11 women who blend a passion for personal health and fitness while championing important issues such as environmentalism, mental health and social justice.
Intentionally diverse and international, The Stolen Starts team includes the likes of elite New Zealand sprinter and mental health advocate Symone Tafuna’I; New York City-based running coach Tammy Salazar-Andurand, who aims to amplify marginalized voices in the fitness community; South Korean environmentalist and “plogging” pioneer Soyoung Im; and the United Kingdom’s Shareefa Radford, a body positive activist preparing for the London Marathon.
“The beauty in The Stolen Starts is that we’re reaching beyond the clear impact of our professional athletes and creating a wider group of impactful women in our New Balance family,” says Samia Akbar, the Boston-based company’s global running energy lead.
According to Akbar, the “Stolen Starts” name draws from the deep inequality between women’s and men’s running, speaking to the reality of women being kept off starting lines throughout history — and ambitiously fighting to change those troubling realities and others.
“The idea is to highlight how despite the challenges women all over the world continue to face, we toe that start line everyday,” Akbar says. “Running in this sense is a metaphor for life. Each day presents an opportunity to make progress for each individual and for allies to remain engaged.”
The Stolen Starts group will participate in social takeovers, product testing and development, curated seeding programs, member-designed racing kits and brand-sponsored event appearances among other initiatives. At an annual Stolen Starts summit, meanwhile, members of the collective will gather to share ideas on how they can continue to drive positive change in their communities and around the world.
Tafuna’l says participating in The Stolen Starts provides her a significant platform to spread awareness about mental health while also representing her Pacific community from New Zealand.
“It’s an honor for me to be a part of The Stolen Starts as it shows young girls and women supporting one another,” Tafuna’I says. “In 2021, there are plenty of seats at the table for all women to thrive and win.”
The hope, Akbar adds, is that The Stolen Starts welcome new runners, motivate seasoned athletes to keep moving forward and heighten female voices to spark a more positive, empathetic world.
“New Balance wanted to create a global female running collective so that women around the world … can see themselves in others showing up as their authentic selves, be inspired to create change in their local communities and celebrate the joy and enduring sense of well-being that comes from being a part of the sport.”