New York is a diverse city, but when Maria Solis Belizaire started running in 2016, she didn’t see that reflected in the running community there.
“I would do these long runs or would go to these events, and I wouldn’t find anybody who looked like me,” She said.
So she started to look for Latino-run communities. It had to exist in a place with large Latino populations. No luck. She decided to try online searching for the right group.
“The only thing that popped up was GoDaddy trying to sell me the website,” Solis, Solis.
“The reality is, there’s no visibility of people in our community,” She later added that although the environment has changed since the beginning of the group, there is still room for improvement in terms of accessibility and diversity.
The organizers of many of the running groups that were established to welcome people of various races, ethnicities, life stages or speeds often share a similar story: They showed up, didn’t see anybody who looked or ran like they did, and wanted to change that.
Michael Stinson, now chief operating officer of the company is Black Men RunHowever, in 2013, when he was just starting to run, he turned to the internet for help. “Do Black men run?” Black Men Run was founded by Edward Walton and Jason Russell two months prior. Stinson stated that he joined the group as soon as possible. Before he found the group, he described it as. “that frustration of feeling like you’re on an island by yourself.”
“You walk into a situation,” Stinson spoke of his experience at running races. “There’s nobody who looks like you. There’s comments and there’s stares, and people make snide comments under their breath. You think, ‘OK, maybe I don’t belong here.’ But I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
There are many running clubs that have local chapters throughout the United States. But, these groups also keep a presence on social media so people can connect from any location.
When Nicki Conroy started running in 2007, she tried out the local groups around Binghamton, N.Y., but they weren’t geared toward runners at her pace or with her challenges as a single mother of six. She decided to run alone. She ran alone as she prepared for her first race in 2010. Another Mother Runner online community.
“It was nice to have something to fall back on where there was somebody who didn’t think I had to be running that nine-minute mile,” Conroy spoke.
Conroy was familiar with local women runners, who all had children. Conroy was responsible for getting her kids up every morning. She was able connect with other mothers runners through another Mother Runner.
“I think we all look for support in different ways, but the local group that may be out there, they may not be the people for you,” Conroy spoke.
Lara Wines resides in Watertown, N.Y. She follows the guidelines of Black Girls Run Albany chapter, approximately 170 miles from her home, as she is a local resident. Wines can participate in virtual runs if she is coming to Albany or visiting the chapter.
“When you’re not a traditional athlete, it feels intimidating, so when you find these people online, that lets you know you’re perfectly fine wherever you are,” Wines said. “That lets you know you can do it.”
Wines runs in many running groups and will switch between them depending on the needs. Wines has recently been back from injury and is now active in a run-walk group.
“I started doing these intervals, posting in the group, and here I am back doing daily runs again,” She said.
Martinus Evans was the founder of The Slow AF Run Club The 2018 virtual race space will be available for faster and heavier runners.
“By having these communities, all these communities, we’re just becoming a conduit for more individuals to get into running, which is always a good thing,” He stated.
Black Men Run is Stinson’s main affiliation, but he is also a big fan of Evans and what he has contributed to the running community by showing a different face for recreational running from a fast, slim, white man.
“You’re valid as a runner and an athlete even if you don’t look like that,” Stinson agreed.
Wines claimed that while she had run with groups based on race and ethnicity, they welcomed all kinds of people.
“People that aren’t in the majority, they know what it’s like,” She said.