Lessons learned from running over 45,000 miles and how the running community can help
DALLAS & NEW YORK - May 18, 2020 - PRLog -- Since the release of the Ahmaud Arbery video, the National Black Marathoners Association (NBMA) has been receiving emails from members of the running community asking two questions, "What are the challenges of being a Black runner?" and "What can the community do to help Black runners?"
In 2004, I co-founded the NBMA and have continued to serve as its Executive Director. We're the oldest and largest, all volunteer, non-profit national organization of Black distance runners and coaches. I've also served on the board of directors for running-related organizations, such as the Dallas Marathon, the Caribbean Endurance Sports Corporation (Five Island Challenge – Marathon and Half Marathon), and Running USA. Thus, I see the running community from the perspective of being a national board member, business owner, and runner.
The NBMA race number logo is a timely reminder of the reason we started the organization. It reads, "NBMA - 1865 – Free to Run." The Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery, was ratified in 1865. Afterwards, we were (supposed to be) "free to run" without fear of violence or threats.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF BEING A BLACK RUNNER?
Since 1979, I've run over 45,000 miles and travelled extensively. I became one of about fifty people in the world (and the second Black) who completed the marathon "hat trick." (A marathon is 26.2 miles.) This consists of finishing marathons (1) in all fifty States and (2) each of the seven continents, as well as (3) completing at least one hundred marathons. I became the first Black in the world to finish marathons on the seven continents in 2007. Those miles included being
- spat on by car passengers and even other runners,
- hit by beer cans and milk jugs thrown from cars,
- called the n-word,
- followed by cars, and
- stopped and asked whether I was lost.
While at the starting line of my first marathon, White runners made unsolicited, discouraging comments to me. Unbeknownst to them, I had a Black distance running role model. He was a fellow St. Louisian, earned NCAA All-American honors, and ran from Los Angeles to New York City. I told myself that if he could average over forty miles a day during his cross country run, then I could run 26.2 miles in one day. I completed that marathon in under four hours. My role model was Dick Gregory.
WHAT CAN THE COMMUNITY DO TO HELP BLACK RUNNERS?
Since 2005, the NBMA has identified, developed, and implemented programs, which address the long term, running-related problems in our community. They focus on education, training, and sustainability. Subsets of each program target specific audiences; youth, collegians, and adults. Your tax-deductible, donations are needed for these programs.
Education – Role Models
We created the National Black Distance Running Hall of Fame to promote Black role models. (www.blackmarathoners.org/nat.-black-distance-running-hall-of-fame.shtml). Awareness of these individuals is critical for the growth of the sport. Past inductees have ranged from Boston Marathon legends, Ted Corbitt and Marilyn Bevans, to actor Dr. Oscar Lee Brown (1950 and 1951 US Indoor 1,000-Yard Champion) and sub-four minute miler Jon Rankin. Gary Corbitt is the NBMA Historian. We also started the Hall of Fame commemorative medal series to further honor the contributions and accomplishments of these individuals. Our official NBMA Historian is Gary Corbitt.
Thanks to the Hall of Fame banquet and donations, we have awarded over $40,000 in college scholarships to high school distance runners. (Click here to watch a very special speech from our first four-year scholarship recipient, Kayla Key during our fifteen year anniversary in Little Rock, Arkansas.)
Training – Developing Black Distance Running Coaches
Thanks to a partnership with the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) and the Dallas Marathon, Black runners began earning their coaching certifications for distance running. Thus, they were better qualified to train new runners/walkers and to encourage them to embrace a healthier life style. We also awarded coaching grants for runners in other cities to obtain their certifications and to help their communities.
The NBMA also developed a program to teach faith- and community-based organizations on how to start and maintain walking and running clubs. Why the church? The church is already established in the Black community. It serves all of our target audiences; youth, collegians, and adults. It's also the one place where Blacks gather on a weekly basis to get motivated to achieve long term goals. After attending the workshop, the St. Luke "Community" United Methodist Church's running club usually has trained over thirty members annually for the Dallas Marathon and Half Marathon.
Click here to help the Black running community, financial support our programs.
Tony Reed, Executive Director
National Black Marathoners Association
Photos: (Click photo to enlarge)
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