This story first appeared in NEXTpittsburgh, which publishes Kidsburgh.
As Director of Youth Programming at P3R, Leslie Turis oversees the award-winning Kids of STEEL program and one of the country’s largest races for children — the Pittsburgh Kids Marathon. Previously, she was executive director of Girls on the Run Long Island. Leslie lives Downtown with her dog, Dolly, and husband, the Reverend Dan M. Turis of First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh.
1. What is the best part of your job?
Every day, I get to work with adults who know that running changes lives. Our volunteers teach kids to set and work toward new goals, encourage them to trust themselves and to trust the process and are having those meaningful conversations with kids while running because sometimes it is easier to talk when shoulder-to-shoulder.
The running community contributes so much to our cause ― running has given them so much, including better health, new friends, increased confidence and improved well-being, and they want to give local kids the gift of this lifelong sport. Our volunteers and donors are the ones who are building a healthier Pittsburgh, and I’m honored to work with them.
2. What is your big idea for Pittsburgh?
To get people — especially kids — outside more. It sounds simple, but being active outside and engaging your community can lead to big results. We are disconnected from community and isolated behind screens when we could be outside more: being a good neighbor, enjoying what Pittsburgh has to offer or quieting our minds in nature.
Plus, kids need to move. Inactivity is not only linked to poor physical health but poor cognitive health, as well. Getting outside together is an easy way for families to get active together. And everyone needs fresh air, vitamin D and exercise — even during winter!
3. What upcoming events are you excited to attend?
I’m looking forward to the holidays in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership does a great job getting all of Pittsburgh in the holiday spirit from everything in Market Square, once the lights and ice rink are up, to all the pop-up shops throughout Downtown.
4. What’s been bugging you lately?
Plastic bugs me. It’s irritating how much single-use plastic you encounter in just one day. The serious concern I have is for our environment. I often think of what our children and the following generation will need to address because of our unsustainable practices. There is a lot of good in Pittsburgh around sustainability, and I get to see it at work. For our races at P3R, we focus a lot on what we can do and partner with local organizations like the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Pennsylvania Resource Council to help make our races as green as possible.
5. What is the one thing that would surprise Pittsburghers most about you?
It always surprises people, especially with my job now, that I did not start running until I was 27 and that I’m (proudly) just an ok runner!
6. Three words that describe Pittsburgh:
Friendly! Hard-working. Resilient.
7. It’s time to unwind. Where do you head?
Outside, of course! I have a very active dog so we walk a lot. We often start the day walking the Strip District or Downtown because we get to watch the city wake up. Weekends we are in Schenley Park. Plus I get to walk to work which is helpful for warming up and winding down the workday brain.
8. In Pittsburgh, I can’t live without my:
9. Favorite place you’ve traveled to in the past year and why?
This summer we visited a few places in New England and went to Portland, Maine, for the first time. Running around Portland was really fun because of the view of the bay, the hills and so many cute streets with fun shops. While running, I actually ran past another runner sporting the exact same UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon shirt that I was wearing. You truly can find Pittsburgh everywhere!