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In Dinée Dorame’s favorite childhood memories, she is sitting in the stands of a high school basketball game with a video camera in her hands. Or, she is filling water bottles at half-time. Or, she is standing on the infield of a track, the New Mexico sun beating down on her legs, and her father beside her. No matter the backdrop, some elements remain the same: sports, her family, and New Mexico. It would be easy to peg Dorame as a newcomer in the running industry. After all, it was only recently, in November of 2020, that she received a Tracksmith Fellowship with funding to launch the Grounded Podcast. To many runners, the theme of this podcast—the intersection of running, culture, land and community—is unique in the world of sports media. Plus, the majority of Dorame’s guests are Indigenous, an unprecedented focus in the running podcast realm. But to Dorame, this work is much more longstanding; Grounded is her legacy.
A citizen of the Navajo Nation, Dorame was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico—a region that she is quick to identify as Tiwa ancestral lands. Dorame’s father serves as the Athletic Director, as well as Head Coach of both the state championship Girls’ Track Team and 400+ game-winning Girls’ Basketball Team, at Albuquerque High School. He also has a state championship Track & Field team at a previous high school in 2005. He retired just two weeks ago after more than 40 years of coaching. Her father’s career was never a solitary pursuit but, rather, a chance to include his family and pass important values on to his daughters. Hence, the many hours Dorame spent court and trackside, shadowing her father as early as kindergarten.
In Dorame’s childhood eyes, her father’s athletes were not merely high school students. Rather, they were warriors—the strongest, most resilient women she knew. She watched them win state championships and lose dual meets; make hard passes and miss easy shots. They taught her how to win and how to lose. As a result, Dorame would grow to embody that athletic strength and sportsmanship, competing on her high school basketball and cross country teams.
At the same time, Dorame’s mother wanted her daughters to understand the legacy that running holds, beyond the mileage logged and finish lines crossed. She taught them that, in Navajo culture, running serves as a form of prayer; by waking up and running towards the east, a Navajo person can ensure acknowledgment from the holy people.
“My family has always blended athletic legacy with cultural values,” Dorame reflects. “My parents taught us to live those core values.” Thus, as early as high school, running served as a connector; a way to honor her culture, family, and community.
My family has always blended athletic legacy with cultural values.
When Dorame left Albuquerque to attend Yale University, she suddenly found herself in an unfamiliar, sometimes alienating, place. In New Haven, Connecticut, running took on a new role. Dorame would lace up her shoes when she needed to release the tight feeling in her chest—the feeling that came from expressing her identity as a Navajo woman on Yale University’s majority White campus. Then, she would get to work doing what she did best: building community.
Eventually, she would serve as the president of Yale’s Association of Native Americans, help found the powwow drum group, befriend members of local Indigenous communities, and stay on campus after graduation to work as the Native Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator in the admissions department. Over the years, that once-faraway land turned to familiar land, and Dorame kept running. Running was, and still is, about the communities that built her, and the ones that she built, too. In 2018, she returned to Albuquerque to serve as the Associate Director of College Horizons (CH), a non-profit organization that supports the higher education of Native American students.
Upon listening to the Grounded Podcast, you might realize something else that has been passed down to Dorame—something beyond her love for community, and her moving feet. There is something about the way her voice carries itself, and the attention she gives to other peoples’ stories and cultural values.
“Dinée is able to have conversations that I could not have, and that very few other people could have,” says Mario Fraioli, writer, running coach, and podcast host, who serves as a podcasting mentor to Dorame. According to Fraioli, this mentor relationship has evolved, turning into a friendship above all else. Theirs is a friendship where dog pictures cut through text messages about podcasting. He emphasizes Dorame’s warmth, her passion for running, and especially, all that he has learned from her.
Dinée is able to have conversations that I could not have, and that very few other people could have.
“On Instagram and twitter, you see the hashtag ‘running culture’ all of the time, and I’ve often thought, ‘well, what does that mean?’” Mario reflects. “Through Dinée, I’ve gotten to learn what that means in the context of Navajo culture, and how running is a connector in her community.”
On the Grounded Podcast, ‘running culture’ embodies many things. It means discussing Navajo culture and how it relates to running. It means learning from others’ cultures, their running practices, and acknowledging the original inhabitants of the land. Most of all, it means building community through a shared understanding: running can never be separated from our cultures, our communities, or the land on which we run.
When asked about her goals, Dorame returns to her family, and the legacy she is building upon: “I want my community to feel loved, and valued, and proud of who they are. In the work that I do, I hope I can manifest some of my parents’ dreams, as well. My dad gets to coach, and my mom is pursuing her Ph.D. right now. But at the end of the day, they both just really love running and sport, and they’re getting to watch me find my own path within it.”