Name: Hector Bienvenido Espinal Jr.
Occupation: Co-founder of WRU Crew, After:Miles and Never Not Bootleggin’
Motivator: My kids. My boys are my source of inspiration.
NYC neighborhood: Born and raised in Washington Heights, currently residing in the Bronx.
Tu país: Dominican Republic
After a tumultuous breakup that left him depressed and lacking confidence, Hector Espinal put one foot in front of the other and started running. It served as therapy, motivating and pushing him out of his comfort zone. He began asking his sister to come along as a running buddy. Every run more and more people joined in, and WRU (We Run Uptown) was born.
Co-founded by Espinal and Josh Mock, WRU has grown into a massive running community. "The community uptown has embraced us,” Espinal says. “Every Monday night, no matter where we’re at—even if we’re blocking traffic—people are honking and cheering us on. It’s beautiful to feel that.” Espinal fell in love with the idea that “no matter what, anyone can be a runner. If you have shoes and a desire to go through the pain, you can make it happen.”
Within six months of running consistently, he conquered his first half marathon. He wants to bring that feeling to anyone who lacks the motivation. “WRU Crew created a platform where adults can be social. And there are so many things that come out of this community: jobs, family bonding, new friendships. People come to New York and don’t know anyone, and then they come to WRU and feel like they belong.” Read on for more from Espinal.
What makes NYC home? Mi gente (my people). That’s what separates New York from everywhere else. It’s why my parents immigrated here: because New York understands my parents’ culture. This could be applied to anybody. That’s why Puerto Ricans moved to Spanish Harlem and Mexicans move to Queens—because you have that bodega on the corner where the guy resonates with you.
Go-to Latino-owned spot: . Every single person within the running community that has come uptown, I’ve taken them to Malecon. It’s authentic Dominican food, and it’s the best rotisserie chicken uptown. It’s the best introduction to Dominican food.
Describe Latino culture in NYC: It’s authentic. It’s rich. That’s why I appreciate the Bronx so much because the Bronx is relentless. It’s going to be impossible to remove Puerto Rican culture or Dominican culture from The Bronx. You can’t talk about New York City and remove Latinidad—it’s impossible.
Favorite saying: “Ponte pa lo tuyo” (Go for what’s yours). I have it tattooed on my legs. It serves as a reminder. Whenever I’m running and I want to give up, I look at my legs. So no matter what happens in my life, I do not deviate from my path.
What’s next for you? Modeling. I feel like there’s a big void in plus-size male modeling, and so that’s a personal goal in my professional life.