Let’s face it fellow chicks, when it comes to finding excuses NOT to exercise, we can get pretty creative. Maybe it’s because you “just got your hair did”, or because your DVR is broken and you couldn’t possibly miss your favorite cast member on the “Real Housewives of Skanksville” or whatever throwing a drink in someone’s face. Or maybe, you just don’t think you need to work out. After all, you can still fit into last season’s jeans (before dinner, at least). But let’s keep it real with one another for a moment, shall we? No matter your size, shape or age…we ALL need to break a sweat on a regular basis to protect our hearts, prevent illnesses like diabetes and cancer, and just to feel good about ourselves.
Two women fed up with talking about getting active decided to stop flapping their lips and start moving their feet. Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks are the creators of “Black Girls Run”. It started back in 2009 when both women started running to lose weight. They paired up and created a team called “Black Girls Run”. The team turned into a blog and the blog turned into an international movement that includes more than 60 running teams across the country. These groups host daily runs that in some instances bring hundreds of women together to work out. The runs range in distances to accommodate all fitness levels and the group leaders enact a “No runner left behind policy” wherein those who finish first run back to encourage some of the slower runners to finish their route. Those who don’t run back hover around the finish line acting as cheerleaders for runners in the final stretch. As someone who has taken part in these runs, I can assure you it’s a sight to behold.
Carey and Hicks say they’re on a mission to combat obesity in the African American community. According to the Office of Minority Health, four out of five African American women are overweight or obese. These startling statistics help to bolster recent claims by the Surgeon General that many African American women are avoiding the gym because they’re too worried about messing up their hair. It’s a suggestion that Toni Carey says makes Black Girls Run an important component in reversing the obesity trend. Women work together to inspire each other to get moving.
You can buy all the weave you want to, you can buy all the clothes you want to, but studies have shown that the quality of your health is directly correlated to the quality of your life . You’ve got 5000 women doing the same things that you’re trying to do, at all kinds of fitness levels, from all walks of life… all trying to be successful. So why not be apart of it?
The ladies say they’ve been overwhelmed by the response to Black Girls Run. They are consistently inundated with emails from people who want to start their own running groups. They’ve even gotten requests from people internationally wanting to start groups, from London to Toronto. But Hicks says it’s the emails from women whose lives have been impacted by the group that assures them that Black Girls Run is on the right track…so to speak.
We have so many people who are like, “This is life changing.’ Even when people are telling me their stories of how (they) lost 100 pounds, it just makes me want to cry a little bit and I’m like, ‘Oh my God!” I cant believe I really helped somebody.
More than 5 thousand women take part in the BGR movement on some level, whether it’s running with a group, sharing their stories on the Black Girls Run blog or encouraging runners on Facebook and at races. As their organization continues to grow, Hicks and Carey say they look forward to one day having the opportunity to establish a nonprofit and reach out to young girls. They are courting organizations and corporations to see the value in what they are doing and back them in their efforts.
Although Black Girls Run specifically targets the problem in the African American community, the co-founders insist that they welcome women of all backgrounds to join them on their mission or sign up with a local running group.
They say the group’s name was actually inspired by the prevalent stereotypes, particularly within the African American community, that running is a “white thing.” Carey says a warning about running from her own mother convinced her that something had to be done to change perceptions.
My mom gave me this spiel about how black women don’t run and ‘your uterus is gonna fall and you’re gonna have to get it sewed back in. It was a bunch of tomfoolery.”
Hicks says while running may seem intimidating at the onset, once women join their group, they soon realize that the bonds formed with other runners can be a great motivator.
“It takes a while for people to love running. That’s another barrier we have to jump over. But we give people the tools they need to enjoy the sport, to know how to prevent injury and take care of themselves. I like that we’ve been able to be connectors. There’s so many people now meeting up at races across the country. Its almost becoming like a sorority.”
For more on Black Girls Run and to find out about running groups in your area, head to the Black Girls Run website.