Running Won’t Be For Everyone Until We Address the Racial Bias in Our Sport

These important stories need to be heard—and hopefully will inspire all runners to do better.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been dedicated to listening. I am committed to being anti-racist, but this is not about me. It’s time to amplify voices, experiences and perspectives that have been shut down, muted, and interrupted in the past. Running won’t be for everyone until we address the racial bias in our sport, and for us to do that, I think we need to educate ourselves.

Below, I’ve shared some telling and thought-provoking essays, interviews, and voices from the Black running community. These important stories need to be heard—and hopefully will inspire all runners to do better.

From Outside Online: Meb Keflezighi on Being Black in America by Martin Fritz Huber

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Meb, and he was quite possibly one of the nicest, most humble people I’ve ever come into contact with. Here, he talks about his own involvement in protests, and his personal experiences as a Black American professional runner.

“The protest is necessary. If we can make a change, it’s going to be gradual, but, yeah, it’s a marathon. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

From Tracksmith Journal: Your Black Teammate by Kamilah Journet

Kamilah is a Hare AC teamember and wrote this powerful easy for Tracksmith Journal about what it’s like to be a Black woman in a white-dominated sport.

“I remember when my feed was full of my friends running 2.23 miles for Ahmaud. I tapped through Instagram stories featuring a home-cooked meal, a screenshot of a short Strava loop, and a freshly baked loaf of bread. His memory simply squeezed into their daily content plans. I tried to stay positive knowing there was good intention behind this physical action, but the fact is, in my network nearly all of my friends run at least 2.23 miles anyway. It may have been shocking for them to hear that simply going for a run can lead to a racist encounter, but it wasn’t for me.”

From Sports Illustrated: Black Track Athletes Share Their Encounters With Racism in America by Chris Chavez

Fourteen Black track and field athletes share real-life stories with hauntingly similar themes.

“There’s times when white men look at me, not even as a human being. I’ve always been a good athlete and so I’ve always been seen by white men like a horse. This is like horse racing, and we’re a great breed. That’s how they looked at us as slaves 400 years ago. That’s not right.” — Will Claye

From Runner’s World: Racing to Stay Alive by Marielle Hall

Marielle Hall talks about how racial bias has shaped her world and challenges readers to have relationships and interactions that can affect meaningful change.

“The misinterpretation and characterization of black people’s experiences is something I know well. When I was in high school, a parent approached my coach to inquire whether my mom was white. She had seen my dad at meets to confirm he is black, but the woman was searching for something to explain my “discipline and focus.” In her world, blackness didn’t equate to those characteristics, and it certainly didn’t add up to running cross country.”

From Trail Runner Mag: Eracism by Yassine Diboun

It’s no secret that trail running lacks diversity. In this essay, Yassine talks about his own experiences as a trail runner and the systemic barriers that prevent people of color from participating. Yassine also includes a list of resources that are stepping stones to equity.

“However, there is one glaring reality – ethnic and racial diversity is lacking and I don’t believe it is because only white-skinned people like to run trails.   There is truth that out in nature we are “all one”.  But until we recognize that there are systemic barriers that prevent many people from participating, thing’s aren’t going to change. Saying that we’re all one while doing nothing to dismantle the systems that prevent people of color from accessing the sport, just perpetuates inequalities.”

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There are lots of other great articles, essays, and resources available for those willing to listen. There is a lot to learn, and a lot of work to do. If you’ve read something you think is worth sharing, please share it in the comments!

ALSO! If you’re looking to merge your love of running with action, Black Girls RUN! and The Civil Rights Race Series (CRRS) are hosting the 1 Million Miles for Justice Virtual Run, Walk and Bike Ride #WeAreDoneDying event. Check it out and get involved here.

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