UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A free public screening of the sports documentary “Running Home,” which tells the story of humanitarian, accomplished middle-distance runner and coach Tony Ruiz, will be conducted at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 30 in Carnegie Cinema.
The film, produced by an award-winning team from Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, focuses on Ruiz — a star middle-distance runner and track coach from Puerto Rico by way of Brooklyn, who overcame adversity many times, but may have faced his greatest challenge after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Deeply moved by the stories of family and friends in the aftermath of the hurricane, and informed by Spanish-language news reports, Ruiz started a longshot GoFundMe campaign to raise $15,000 for hurricane relief by racing in New York’s treacherous Van Cortlandt Park. He was later honored for his efforts as a "New Yorker of the Year" by The New York Times.
Ruiz was the first member of his family to be born in the continental United States. He said he escaped the streets of New York through track and field, leading a powerhouse team from Westinghouse High School in Brooklyn in the late 1970s.
Ruiz, who spent summers and even a full school year in Puerto Rico, earned a scholarship to run there in college, and was poised to represent the island in the Olympics when the United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. The disappointment sent Ruiz into a tailspin for several years, but he emerged with a new dedication to service, partly inspired by the example of the great Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente.
Ruiz ultimately became the road racing and marathon coach of the accomplished Central Park Track Club, leading it to national-level success.
Primary filming of “Running Home” was conducted in New York and Puerto Rico (during a working spring break trip) earlier this year. The film is the second sports documentary created by the Curley Center.
“Running Home” is directed by senior journalism major Paddy Cotter, who served as editor on the Curley Center’s award-winning first documentary, “Quiet Sundays.” Giana Han, who graduated in May with degrees in journalism and integrative arts, served as associate producer and created the animation for “Running Home.” Faculty member John Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and director of the Curley Center, produced the film.