Last year I trained and ran my first-ever half marathon with my best girlfriends. The tough, yet empowering experience made me think about how the practice of regular running strengthened my lifestyle, health, bond with my girls and self-confidence. However, after completing the half marathon in Chicago, I couldn’t help but notice how few black people, particularly women, ran the race. Out of thousands of participants, I was one of only a few. To me this was surprising, especially given the widely discussed health benefits of running and the increasing trend of running organized races (The Color Run or Tough Mudder, anyone?). Why aren’t more black women running? Some reasons that come to mind include constrained time, low energy, fear of failure, not knowing where to start, or not wanting to sweat out a press. But, hell, I don’t know.
Let’s be clear: All abled bodies should consider running as a form of exercise and stress relief. There’s been extensive research on its benefits, and as far as I am concerned it’s the most basic and accessible (free!) type of cardio. So why should black women run?
1. THE HEALTH BENEFITS ARE UNDISPUTED.
And black women need this more than ever. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American women hold some the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity in the country. Running jumpstarts weight loss, strengthens your heart and can reduce your likelihood of developing these health issues.
2. STRESS RELIEF
From the constant media coverage of discrimination and violence toward blacks to concerns about your family, career path and value in this world, being young and black in America right now is stressful! Running is a great way to disconnect from all the noise and clear your head. Not only does it release endorphins, but it also connects you with your body and mind and can serve as a little therapeutic space.
3. IT’S AFFORDABLE!
My aunt always jokes that she runs because you don’t have to pay anything to do it. No gym fees. No weights. No team membership. No trainer. Aside from a good pair of running shoes (upwards $100) and some nice weather, you’re set.
4. HAIR GROWTH
Running sparks hair, skin, and nail growth, and with all the protective styling you have to do with your hair you see little-to-no breakage.
5. YOU START TO LOOK FLAWLESS.
And if you’re an outdoor runner like me, you gain this great sunshine-y glow that keeps you looking sun-kissed throughout the day.
6. AND ALL THIS PERFECTION BRINGS THE BOYS TO THE YARD
Not only do you look better but you feel better. This fact alone has an exponential effect, with increased strength spawning more confidence and magneticism. You are enticing. Furthermore, it becomes an impressive talking point in social settings. Relish in the new attention you attract.
7. TAKES YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE TO NEW LEVELS
Any runner will tell you, some workouts are harder than others. The first mile is sometimes harder than the second. Just like getting through tough days, getting through tough runs is a mental game. You remind yourself to put one foot in front of the other and to just breathe. In doing so, you gain a mental strength and tolerance that goes far beyond anything physical. It’s a deeply spiritual experience. And man do you feel incredible when you finally make it over that physical or metaphorical hill. You run your world. That empowerment is gold. That confidence is what black women deserve.
8. WHILE RUNNING IS PERSONAL, IT CAN BE SOCIAL.
You can use running as a social outlet, swapping a happy hour out for a group run. Most cities have running groups you can casually join for free. In my case, my girlfriends and I planned to do this race together because we live in different parts of the country and we wanted to find a positive and healthy reason to come together. Using an app to track our runs, we were able to hold each other accountable and share our stories (or in my case sweaty selfies) from across the nation. Making it social can make participation an incentive and foster a culture of support.
9. AS THE BENEFITS INCREASE, THE BARRIERS CLEAR
Being busy is real and part of life. Having low energy is exhausting. The beautiful thing about running is that you can take it in pieces. You can jog for a half a mile and walk another. You can train for a half marathon or build up to running one mile three times a week. It’s your goal — it’s your journey. No matter the pace, however, the truth of the matter is once you make it a part of your life, the things that discouraged you (fear of failure, fear of commitment, low energy, outside demands) will become less of a hindrance.
10. YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING FOR YOU
And what black queen doesn’t deserve a little something for herself? #treatyoself