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Women Who Move: Whitney Liera

Age: 23
San Diego, CA
Prevention and Early Intervention Counselor

Growing up I dealt with feelings of inadequacy, self-consciousness and anxiety. I battled hard with depression throughout my life—it always held me back. In 2007, I left everything I knew and headed into a very scary chapter of my life: college in a new city.

I am Native American and grew up on the Cahuilla Reservation. I was the first person in my immediate family to go to college. Needless to say, the transition of leaving my home to attend school in San Diego was not easy. At the time, I began to see a therapist, who prescribed me medication to cope.

Soon after, I began to make a few friends, one of whom was a seasoned runner. When I watched one of his races, I was curious about the sport and wanted to try running. Starting slow, I worked my way up to 3 miles. I knew I had done something great for myself. I began to build up my self-confidence, and I pushed forward from a 5K to a 10-miler and even set a goal for a half marathon!

I never thought I would be able to cross those finish lines. I felt better about myself than I ever had before and sensed an internal strength I never knew I possessed. Through running and the help of my therapist, I was able to get o°  my prescriptions and still feel great.

My next big step was to complete a full marathon. I knew I wasn’t going to be the fastest runner. I just wanted to finish. I had a wonderful support system—my family and friends inspired me and helped me train—but I had to do this for me, not for anyone else. I learned how to depend on myself alone to make me feel good.

Running has improved my life in so many ways. Now, I work with a local San Diego tribe’s youth to educate them about mental wellness. I also run with and support my friend’s running club on a reservation. I share my story with other Native Americans to encourage them to never be afraid to try new things.


Sometimes you need a little incentive to finish a tough training session. To get through a run, I once promised myself pancakes. I finished up just so I could treat myself.