When it comes to cities boasting racial diversity, London is undoubtedly a top contender. It’s not uncommon to hear multiple languages being spoken on the streets, and it’s clear from simply existing in the city that it is a melting pot of various cultures.
So why doesn’t this multiculturalism that our city is so known for seem to be reflected in the running community? The truth is, there are many Black and non-Black people of colour who exist within the running community, but with so few of them seen in the media, it’s hard to argue that they feel included.
In response to this lack of inclusion within the wider running community, the number of running collectives that are actively championing racial inclusivity is on the rise. Whether it’s digitally or in real life, safe spaces are being carved out that are offering everyone a seat at the table, regardless of their background.
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Launched during lockdown with the aim of reviving a sense of connection struck down by COVID, Cardio Collective is a completely digital run club that goes beyond simply providing running programmes. Playlists, physiotherapists and counsellors are among the wider range of services the platform offers to ensure its members – dubbed ‘everyday athletes’ – are looked after on a holistic level.
Cardio Collective’s founder is Courtnay Osborne-Walker, a London fitness professional and former Junior Track & Field athlete, who has a vision of positively impacting members beyond their sessions. ‘Cardio Collective is keen to diversify the running scene by offering opportunities for BAME individuals to be supported and represented in the sport,’ Courtnay says. ‘We act as an inclusive space where people of all bodies and identities can safely explore the world of running without fear of judgement.’
Bit of Run Strong with Heather and me tomorrow live on your Facebook. Join us at 7pm on Facebook live for a 20min strength session followed by your run of choice. I'll be doing week 3, run 3 of couch to 5k! Whose in? #backpackers #warriorpack #backpackersclc #chasinglightscollective #chasinglights #asics #running #runandgames #runspo #runthrough #fitspo #imoveme #mindfulmovement #health #sexypace #london #crew #community #asicsrunning #ukrunchat #anyonecandoit #leadingfromtheback #itwasntfastbutitwasdone
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Leeanne Adu wanted to free herself from the stereotype that people who looked like her should be able to run at a certain speed. How many other people who looked like her were deterred from running in fear that expectation was too high? In a bid to create a safe space for people like her, Leeanne launched Backpackers in 2017 as a spin-off to the Chasing Lights Collective.
‘As a 6 foot tall, mixed-race woman, I was always expected to be athletic and fast,’ Leeanne shares. ‘Having often been last across the finish line I know what it’s like to feel alone out there on the road, the pity sent my way, despite the fact that I am fit and strong, just a little bit slower.’
‘Backpackers is open to all but especially those who understand what it feels like to be left alone’, Leeanne adds. ‘Over the past three years, we have set a precedent for slower runners to feel supported at the back of the pack by providing pacers at Hackney Half Marathon, The Oxford Half Marathon and the British 10K.’
WE SAY YOU SCROLLING. LATE LUNCH - Did you think we forgot? If you can get out or you’re blessed with a treadmill in your building... Time to get warm for CR2. 1 Mile Easy. 100 easy 100 hard x 2. 200 easy 200 hard x 2. 300 easy 100 hard x 1. ACTIVATION DRILLS. 1-2 mins PREP. 2 x 1600m with 1-2 mins recovery if needed. The 1600m are broken down below. 200m (5-10k pace) 400m hard (1 mile-5k pace) 200m harder (800 - 1 mile pace) 200m (5-10k pace) 400m hard (1 mile-5k pace) 200m harder (800 - 1 mile pace) 1 x 1200m = 👇🏿 200m (5-10k pace) 800m hard (1 mile-5k pace) 200m easy (5-10k pace) 1 x 1200m = 👇🏿 200m (5-10k pace) 1000m ALL IN. 1 Mile cool down stretch and smile. Try not to make the transition from pace to pace to jerky, Nice and fluid, remember this isn’t supposed to be hard, just a lil challenging. If this is your first week or you’re not keen on the length of this HALF IT and or adjust your paces accordingly ASLONG as you’re working on efficiently changing your pacing and feeling ever so slightly uncomfortable on the harder efforts. If this is WEEK 2 for you you should be OVERJOYED you get to DEVELOP after WEEK 1 of our BUILD. Remember, We Build, Develop, Survive and OWN IT. NO BEASTING, just FLOATING. Stay safe y’all. #TrackMafia #Running #Nike #NikeRunning #RunningCulture #Lifestyle #Corona #Virtual
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Track Mafia started back in 2012 and has since been home to runners of all backgrounds, cultures and races. And why wouldn’t it be? London, after all, truly is one of the world’s most diverse cities.
Track Mafia’s founders Cory, Jules and Jeggi knew that this honest reflection of what the running community in London looked like was something they wanted to create from the get-go, and anyone who’s joined their weekly sessions can not only see but feel that.
‘Our goal has always been to foster a sense of community and we’ve always wanted our team to represent not just London but the world,’ Cory explains. ‘London is a melting pot of cultures and people, all with different ideas, stories, experiences and knowledge.’ Having nurtured a space where so may different people feel welcome to run, Cory doesn’t take this platform lightly. ‘We believe and understand that we have a responsibility to set a good example, especially when young people look to us for inspiration,’ he adds.
Of course, Track Mafia, holds inclusivity as one of its core values, but they’re serious about running, too. The collective was founded out of a desire to grow, work on being more consistent and work on being stronger, according to Cory. ‘The plan was to change the way that normal everyday people felt about track, speed and discomfort,’ he adds. ‘In running there are many ways to improve but most will involve being uncomfortable for a period of time. We told people this from the get-go, but also that we’d be there with them every step of the way.’
Music and running go hand in hand, so Tempo LDN’s inception was only natural. Created in August 2018 to offer those working in the music industry a place for ‘calm and clarity,’ as co-founder Martha Pazienti Caidan calls it, the running club has aimed to promote togetherness, mental and physical health outside of the club environment, and safety.
Carrying the diversity of people within the music industry over to running was always a priority for Martha, who had noticed a lack of representation within the community when heading out to take part in races or events. ‘We bring with us people who are interested in music more than they initially are in running, so ours is a different demographic to other run groups,’ she explains. ‘I understand the importance of us being out there on the streets where passers-by can see someone who looks like them amongst our members – Black runners and a range of ethnicities, queer runners, womxn. It’s important to me that that we show that running can be a safe and viable option for everyone.’
Tempo LDN is completely centred around its team and members, that is to say it is a collaborative effort. From pacers to support runners, the group prides itself on representing a wide group of people from the city. ‘Having a diverse group of pacers means we’re better placed to care for a diverse group of runners, and this helps spread the message of visible inclusion.’ Tempo LDN also holds at the forefront of its values safety for womxn: ‘At the start of each session, I ask everyone to keep that thought in mind while they’re in our space, and I encourage the girls to run at the front of the pack if they want to.'
Another run in the bag! Today we ventured to Richmond park for a chilled run with some added spice (all the hills) 🌶🌶🌶 well done ladies!! Absolutely smashed it!! #trail #trailrunning #diversifyoutdoors #nike #nikerunning #blackexcellence #blackwomxn #blackgirlsrunning #nature #AONB
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Trail runner Dora Atim was tired of constantly noticing the lack of representation for Black people at the ‘everyday level’ at the events she was taking part in. The unsettling feeling of being the only Black woman there, she says, caused her to stop pursuing trail running. ‘Why would I continue to give these companies my money and attend when it makes me feel uncomfortable?’
The effects that a lack of representation has on the wider running community is evident through experiences like Dora’s, and so she decided to launch Ultra Black Running, a trail running community aimed at creating a safe space for Black womxn and girls, and gender non-conforming people. ‘I wanted to do something that uplifts, empowers and gives Black womxn confidence to do something they don’t normally think about doing alone,’ she says. ‘I am extremely passionate about it and I love the outdoors. I believe it does absolute wonders for your wellbeing just to be in areas of natural beauty.’
Using her negative experiences of discomfort at trail events as fuel, Dora – who is also a Nike+ Run Coach – has made it Ultra Black Running’s mission to spread a sense of belonging in the trail running community. ‘I wanted to make sure that people who are like me are able to attend something that has been designed for them to feel included, with good vibes and no judgement,’ she says. ‘I am not complaining about it anymore, I am being about it, I am being the change I want to see in the running world. I know that good things will come from this, so I will continue to work hard to make Ultra Black Running create waves in the trail running world.’
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