Short Film “Run to Be Visible” Celebrates the Work of Indigenous Runner and Academic Dr. Lydia Jennings

When COVID-19 led to the cancelation of Ph.D. student Lydia Jennings’s graduation ceremony, she decided to do something a little different to celebrate. After completing a doctorate in soil microbiology and environmental policy, Jennings set her sights on running 50 miles. She would dedicate the journey in honor of Indigenous scientists, scholars, and knowledge keepers who came before her.

Lydia Jennings. Near Tucson, AZ. March 2021

Lydia Jennings running near Tucson, Arizona. Photo: Tomas Karmelo Amaya

A member of the Huichol (Wixaritari) and Pascua Yaqui (Yoeme) Nations, Jennings aims to create more inclusive academic and environmental landscapes. She focuses specifically on the essential role of Indigenous communities in these spaces. And in planning her celebratory 50-mile run — which would be her first time completing the distance — she wanted to honor 50 Indigenous scientists along the route.

“It’s important to honor these scientists because I wouldn’t be here without them,” Jennings notes in the film.

In addition to the 50 scientists, Jennings also dedicated the final mile of her run to students of the future, using it as an opportunity to raise money for the AISES T3 Fund, which helps Indigenous students affected by COVID-19 – she managed to raise $8,500.

In partnership with Rising Hearts, an Indigenous-led grassroots organization, Patagonia documented Jennings’s journey in its latest short film, “Run to be Visible.”

“Run to Be Visible” is the second episode of Patagonia’s “Run To” film series. According to Patagonia, the series is about runners finding activism through sport: “Running is a powerful tool for activism. The act of traversing the planet’s most beautiful landscapes connects us to the places we run, reminds us of the importance of access, and impels us to stand up and fight when these places and communities are threatened.”

The first episode of the series, “Corriendo Para Salvar Una Cuenca,” features Felipe Cancino running 120 kilometers through Chile’s Maipo River Valley to explore the impacts of the Alto Maipo hydropower project on the local ecosystem and communities.

To keep up with Dr. Jennings’s research work and running adventures, follow her on her Instagram and website, which lists her previous publications and upcoming research, as well as a number of educational resources on Indigenous lands acknowledgements, decolonization, and more.

Call for Comments

  • How do you honor family members or inspirational leaders in the community who have come before you?
  • What are some ways you can continue to acknowledge Indigenous leaders your community at large?
Lydia Jennings takes a break in New Mexico.

Lydia Jennings takes a break during her run near Tucson, Arizona. Photo: Tomas Karmelo Amaya