How Black Girls RUN! Does More Than Promote Health And Wellness Among Black Women
With 73 groups across 30 states, Black Girls RUN! brings women together through running events.
Adina Crawford has come a long way. Ten years ago, she weighed more than 300 pounds. Now, looking completely different and feeling great, the DC resident shared that running has changed her life.
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“I was a pretty hefty, young lady,” Crawford told Blavity. “Coming from a family that has a lot of illness and that didn’t exercise, this was huge for me.”
Crawford made her transformation with the support of a nationwide organization known as Black Girls RUN! The group coordinates running events all over the U.S. and specifically focuses on improving the health of Black women. For Crawford, her experience with Black Girls RUN! (BGR) has taken her from a regular runner with the group to lead ambassador.
“I didn't know anybody in the group, but I just kept coming to the weekly runs and getting involved,” Crawford said.
As she continued her exercise journey, Crawford also showed her willingness to support other runners around her. After a coordinator noticed Crawford’s skills, she was offered her a chance to also become a coordinator. Now a lead ambassador for the DC area, she helps promote the organization while also recruiting others to join Black Girls RUN! events.
With 73 groups nationwide in 30 states, there are about six women who manage each BGR chapter across each participating region. Launched in 2009, the organization aims to bring women together to hold each other accountable for living a healthy lifestyle, even if this means calling and checking on runners who don't show up to events. Crawford has witnessed this hands-on support firsthand.
“Somebody can be going through a health crisis, family crisis, financial crisis, and we don’t know about it. But [if] they say, 'Hey, I haven’t been able to run because — whatever,' at least we know they’re OK,” she said. “People really appreciate that. Like, 'Wow, they’re really concerned because I’m not at a run.'"
Additionally, Crawford has heard plenty of excuses from runners, particularly from women who say they don’t want to mess up their hair or don’t even have the right clothes to wear. However, she solves the issue by telling these women they can walk instead of run.
“We’re all out there to do it together for the good of the cause,” she said.
In April 2018, when Jay Ell Alexander was appointed CEO, she vowed to uphold BGR’s mission.
“I really consider BGR to be the pioneer of getting African American women in the race, endurance events,” Alexander said. “We want to continue trying to lower African American women from almost every chronic disease that you can think of, from breast cancer to heart disease and so forth. We just want to continue to lower those statistics and move the needle, in terms of making our community healthier.”
April Moore, a BGR ambassador in Atlanta, also found the support she had long desired when she joined the group in 2015.
“When my friends told me about BGR, I was finally able to drag myself out of bed early one cold February morning. [After we] went out for a group run, [I] started running consistently with them, [and soon] started running more races,” Moore said.
That same year, Moore became an ambassador at BGR. Looking back, she's still surprised by how far she has come.
“There is no way [nearly] five years ago, you could have told I’d be running marathons [or] half-marathons,” Moore said. “Even 5K at the time seemed to be daunting. Then you spend time with these women that are so motivating and encouraging, and you get this positive peer pressure.”
For Moore and many of the other members at BGR, running has impacted their outlook on life.
“If I can run 26.2 miles or 13 miles, I can do anything,” she said. “Running is a mental battle. It really gives you a lot of confidence.”
Alexander explained how running can serve as an outlet for women experiencing various challenges in life.
“We have women joining from all kinds of socioeconomic factors, whether they wanna lose weight or they need to find an outlet from a bad divorce,” Alexander said. “People can find what health and wellness means for them, specifically.”
The organization's grassroots efforts have enabled it to come far, but Alexander said the goal now is to pour more resources into the local level.
“We created a 501(c)(3) foundation about a year ago. That foundation will help create sustainability where we can start securing funding, working with more community and government partners to implement more funding and more sustainable programming within our organization,” she said. “Those women are responsible at the local level for organizing events; getting women together to run."
BGR also plans national events, including conferences and meetups, to give runners a chance to connect with people outside of their region.
“We have testimonies and hear success stories all the time,” Alexander said. “It’s considered a success even when they find confidence.”