A Simple Reminder Why We All Need a Cheerleader Now and Then

Co-founders Ashley Hicks and Toni Carey launched Black Girls RUN! in 2009 to support women of color in the running community. Carey (right) shares an experience she had that reminds us on MLK Day 2016 that we are all runners--and we are all cheerleaders for one another.

photo-1-1-1024x576-2A few weeks ago I tweeted about an unusual encounter I had at my local YMCA.

It was a weekday morning and I hit the gym early that day to get in a quick run before the day started. It was chilly that morning, so I had on my uber warm Black Girls RUN! hoodie on. As I handed the desk attendant my membership card, she frowned at my hoodie and said, "White girls run too!"

Mind you, I'm not 100 percent awake until I've tackled a mile or two. I responded by saying, "Yeah, well we all run."

Unfortunately, my brain wasn't working quick enough to shoot back a witty response. But the encounter got even weirder.

She said, "Yeah, we all run, especially if running from big dogs."

As you can imagine, my only response was a blank stare as I couldn't muster the brain waves to even try to begin to figure out what had just happened. I hurried off to the treadmill and hoped I could avoid her on my way out.

It was the first time someone of another ethnicity verbally questioned and got defensive about Black Girls RUN! But I get the non-verbal questions all the time. Some of my own white friends aren't exactly sure why there's a need for BGR! But most want to know if they are allowed to fan our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

While I can pontificate on this a lot more, I began thinking, "Are we somehow, with all good intentions, being discriminatory or defensive?," "Shouldn't we encourage ALL women to run?," "Should we change our name to Black Girls RUN! (and white girls run too)?"

But, then I remembered why we started this. The alarming statistics that are so real to us everyday. Our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends who are plagued with the diseases and health issues due to cultural culinary fare ingrained in the African-American community, and the belief that our hair is more important than our health.

I've realized that the importance and the urgency for black women to live healthier (both mentally and physically) can't be explained or understood by someone who didn't grow up seeing how much health and wellness has impacted our race. And nor do I expect them to.

However, I do expect not to be judged for a movement that is imperative to our community. I do expect their support. I do expect them to join the movement, because at the end of the day, we're all in this together.

So for all the white women who follow us (or would like to), you don't have to stand on the sidelines and watch from a distance. We want and need your support. Be a part of the movement! After several weeks of thinking about what the appropriate response should have been to the desk clerk at the YMCA, I'm still not sure what her intention was. But, I wish I could have given her a Black Girls RUN! hoodie and offered her an opportunity to join the BGR! movement. Sometimes people just want to be included or at least that's what I'd like to think.

*Train Like a Mother this spring and have your best training experience—and strongest race—ever. Registrations for 10K, half-marathon, and marathon programs in Train Like a Mother Club close January 24.

11 responses to “A Simple Reminder Why We All Need a Cheerleader Now and Then

  1. I would cut the attendant some slack. It sounds to me like she was trying to be inclusive, albeit in an awkward way, with the weird dog comment. And good for you for explaining to her and to us, what BGR! is all about.

  2. Thanks for the insight regarding why this group was formed. I see it all over the country when participating in half marathons and have wondered about it. Just keep being kind and encouraging others. The clerk will come around.

  3. I think any group that tries to encourage a specific demographic is in danger of unintentionally excluding others. Look at Moms Run This Town. They recently expanded to She Runs This Town in order to include non-mothers after several women who hadn’t happened to birth a child complained. I am white but have never felt excluded from Black Girls Run. The name of the group doesn’t matter. It is a group of people who enjoy and support each other.

  4. When visiting my cousin in Memphis a few years ago, she took me to a weekend run with her BGR group. I felt so welcomed an embraced by the group. What a fabulous organization you are! Thank you for welcoming this white girl from the Midwest to run with you on that blisteringly hot Memphis day. The picture that was taken before the run is one of my favorite pictures. Hoping to run with you again this June when I visit Memphis.

  5. Thank you for sharing this article. I love the positive energy that the BGR! community brings to races but never checked out the backstory, so now I will enjoy the energy a little more! (And I’m not sure if there is a “right” answer to that comment about the dog… that is just bizarre and I hope that that YMCA employee is not always so cranky.)

  6. Very nice article! I happen to be a white mother runner, but support any organization (like BGR)) that encourages anybody to be healthy! Just like AMR is not meant to be exclusive to only mothers, it helps to identify with others that have similar struggles and experiences. I am sure that you have encouraged and inspired many people to get out there and run, and that’s what matters!

  7. True that (what cheryl said). Running is hard enough, that’s why there’s a mother movement too! Run black girls! Run anyone really. Because the truth is, once you get out that door, runners are the most inclusionary group of people I’ve ever met. Out there, we are all one.

    Keep moving forward!

  8. For what it’s worth, BGR! has this white girl’s support. I’m doing the Train Like a Mother half marathon plan this spring and don’t have any kids why not Black Girls Run! That desk attendant’s were bizarre, to put it mildly.

  9. I get Track and Field News. Most of the women runners featured are black, especially for short distances (sprints, hurdles) but they do really well in the longer distances also (Kenyans and Ethiopians are SO more talented and prevalent than any caucasian distance runner!) I don’t know why there is a “shortage” of black women running-it’s kind of the same with Hispanic girls. They do really well in middle and high school and then quit. I coached girls cross country for seven years at the elementary level and my girls were talented. I can only hope some of them are still running today. Good for you and your group to encourage everyone to run!

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