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Celebrating Black History

Black Girls Run: How a Female-Led Foundation Is Promoting Change

Jay Ell Alexander

CEO, Black Girls RUN!

Black- and female-led Black Girls RUN! is encouraging the Black community to be healthier by running.

Black Girls RUN! (BGR) wants to make a difference in Black Americans’ health. Specifically, they’re focused on helping women become more active.

After all, about 4 out of 5 Black women are overweight or obese. Plus, there is a prevalent misconception that Black women don’t run.

“The goal behind BGR is to bring awareness to the health disparities that impact the Black community,” said Jay Ell Alexander, CEO of BGR, who is also a runner herself. “We encourage all women, with a focus on Black women, to make healthy living and fitness a priority. We are changing the perception by increasing our representation and tearing down those stereotypes of what a runner or what health looks like.”

Alexander explained that the group has “created a movement across the country where Black women feel safe.” Indeed, research has shown that a lack of safe places to exercise, in addition to insufficient walkways for pedestrians, may be contributors to obesity rates among the Black population. “We have empowered women to get healthier and hit the pavement,” she added.

Getting started

If you’re a new runner, Alexander encourages foot protection by choosing quality shoes and socks. “But, even before the gear,” she emphasized, “you have to make sure you have the right mindset. The next thing is getting on a training plan and taking it slow, one step at a time.”

To start extra slow, check out Walk B4U Run, a BGR program similar to the popular Couch to 5K program, which helps new runners go from leading sedentary lives to walking and then completing a 5K race, which is about 3.1 miles. The organization holds a challenge each quarter, making for four programs per year, and participants can complete it by themselves, with friends, or with a local BGR group.

Supporting change

Interested runners can find a running community and Facebook group in their area via the BGR website. The foundation also has an events page, where you can stay up to date on the latest get-togethers. Those interested in donating to help support the healthy lifestyle and fitness goals of Black runners can contribute on the organization’s donations page.

Partaking or supporting others in the group just may help change the running landscape by promoting diversity — an effort Alexander stresses is worthwhile. “The entire outdoor space industry has to realize that the lack of representation and the ownership to better the diversity in this space is everyone’s responsibility,” she said.

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