When we first introduce people to Black Girls RUN!, one of the first reactions we receive is, “But why does it have to be about race? Why can’t it be ‘ALL women run?’” Our response is always the same, and the reaction is always the same. We tell them that approximately 80 percent of African-American people are either overweight or obese. One in four black women are probably not just suffering from excess weight, but also suffering from some type of chronic disease.
Our country is facing one of the most detrimental epidemics it has faced in this century and it is the first time children may not outlive their parents.
With the increasing popularity of social media in 2009, we decided to launch a movement that would encourage minority women to take charge of their health and get fit by way of running. As new runners, we quickly fell in love with hitting the pavement and wanted to share the highs (and lows) that running often presents. What started as a blog quickly turned into a social movement with more than 70 running groups and 96,000 members across the country to date. But we couldn’t have done it alone.
We recently led a panel discussion at SXSW in Austin, Texas, to discuss the convergence of health and social media and we have to admit, social media has been key to our growth. Not only does it allow you to connect with people that you may have never otherwise connected with, it also helps to hold you accountable. Who isn’t guilty of posting their distance or fitness goals? We all do it! And it’s not a bad thing. Numerous studies have shown the importance of support systems or accountability partners when it comes to goal setting.
So the next question is why running? Well, because it makes you happy! No, seriously.
In research conducted by German scientists, it was concluded “running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.”
While many of our members have never, ever run in their life, they quickly appreciate not only the physical advantages of running, but also the mental benefits of hitting the pavement. One of our favorite sayings is, “Running is cheaper than therapy” and it’s true! ALL women tend to carry the load of the family, work, kids…. you name it! Running is their opportunity to step away from it all, be with their thoughts and leave it on the run. We’ve heard numerous accounts of women overcoming depression, painful divorces, stress, anxiety and other emotional challenges all by running.
We know that Black Girls RUN! isn’t just a running group, it’s a safe haven for women of all shapes, sizes and colors to come run, talk, test their comfort levels and reach for the seemingly impossible all without judgment. It’s their therapy. And it’s an opportunity for women across the country to become strong physically, mentally and emotionally! So, we invite ALL women to come walk, jog, wog or jump with us! Because, at the end of the day, we think the world could always use a little more “run happy.”
About the author:
Toni Carey, a native of Nashville, Tenn., discovered her love for running (and yoga) in 2008. She considers herself an advanced runner and completed her first marathon in 2013. Ashley Hicks hails from Evans, Ga. As a former soccer player, Ashley began running to maintain an active lifestyle and to achieve what seemed impossible, the New York City Marathon (which she did in 2009).
The two have been recognized locally and nationally for their work to combat obesity in the African-American community. They were recently profiled by Runner’s World magazine, espnW, The Tennessean and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and appeared on The Michael Baisden Show. They were also named to Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 list, The Grio’s Class of 2012 list, nominated as “Best Blogger” by Shape Magazine and named as one of the“30 Black Bloggers You Should Know,” by TheRoot.com.