For many runners, the routine of pulling on our shoes, blasting our playlist, and hitting the road is a form of escape. But there are some things that you can't run away from, and as nationwide protests continue, calling for action against systemic racism and police brutality towards Black people, the running community is as implicated as any other. While running as a sport, as a form of exercise, is loved for its accessibility, the running community has major work to do to become more inclusive, to amplify BIPOC voices, and to speak out against injustice. Runners are as affected as anyone else; the murder of Ahmaud Arbery showed the reality and the danger that many Black runners have to deal with every time they lace up and head out the door.
One athlete committed to this work is Alison M. Désir, a runner, mental health coach, activist, and founder of running initiatives like Harlem Run, Run 4 All Women, and Global Womxn Run Collective. In honour of Global Running Day on June 3, Désir took to Instagram to share a powerful message about race in the running community and the urgent need to create space and listen to those who are often silenced.
"8 years ago TODAY I ran my first marathon," she wrote, captioning a triumphant post-race photo from 2012. Crossing the finish line transformed her life, she continued, and months later, she founded Harlem Run "to ensure that more people who looked like me were crossing finishlines [sic]." For Désir, "running was always linked to political action — knowing my history of movement as protest — and mental health — the sense of freedom and liberation I experienced. As a black woman leading #HarlemRun in New York City, I was often excluded from conversations and collaboration by my male counterparts, simply expected to fall in line and jump on board; I never did either." She is still dedicated to creating opportunities through her organisations and by teaching, asking difficult questions, and sharing resources and difficult truths, she wrote. "Please remember it's all in service of making this space (and all spaces) welcoming/safe/joyful/equitable for people who look like me."
Read Désir's inspiring post above and click here for ways you can contribute to the fight against racial injustice. You can also support Désir on Patreon or through her work with MeaningThruMovement and the organisations above.