Brenda Martinez knows a lot about firsts. The track star was the first person in her family to graduate from college. At last year’s world championships, she became the first American woman to place in the top three in the 800 meters. And this week, the California native is taking her first trip to D.C.
“I’m trying to do good things through my running,” says Martinez, 26, who’s part of a delegation of athletes lobbying for more federal funding for physical activity. The celebrity lineup, which also includes softball great Jennie Finch, Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Cullen Jones and several pro football players, will be tackling a series of meetings on the Hill.
The goal of the trip: to build support for the Personal Health Investment Today Act, which would allow Americans to pay for physical activity expenses with pre-tax dollars, as well as the Carol M. White Physical Education Program, which provides grants to schools and community organizations to improve physical education for children.
Both issues are important to Martinez, who runs a summer camp for high school girls in Big Bear Lake, Calif., and mentors one young female athlete each year.
“We run, and talk about making healthy choices,” Martinez says.
Through these discussions — and her own experience — she has seen how lack of money can make fitness more difficult. When kids are wearing old shoes or don’t have access to the proper equipment, it’s harder for them to perform.
“I feel that it can deter people from exercise,” Martinez says. “And the whole point is to get people moving.”
Martinez, of course, moves quite a bit: She has been logging 75 to 80 miles each week for training. Because the schedule set by her coach currently calls for two runs a day, Martinez will be squeezing in a pair of workouts before and after her lobbying obligations. (She’ll likely have to forgo the nap she usually takes in the middle of the day.)
There are no plans yet for any members of Congress to join her, but they’re all welcome to come along, she says. Maybe they can share tips on how to run Washington.