On the brink of their first sponsored run and 25,000 members strong after three years, Black Girls RUN! continues to make an impact. Founders Ashley Hicks and Toni Carey began the organization with the mission to “encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority.”
“It was important to start Black Girls RUN! because according to the CDC, 80 percent of African American women are either obese or overweight,” Carey said. “We saw a need in our community to start talking about fitness and running. We wanted to approach it in a way that will be relevant to people like us – other black women.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), African-American women have the highest rates of obesity as compared to other groups in the United States. About four in five African-American women are overweight or obese. Falling into the overweight or obese categories increases an individuals’ risk of acquiring heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers as well as other chronic health diseases.
“Toni and I have struggled with weight issues,” Hicks said. “ It’s just knowing what that is like, but more so than obesity, is knowing that a large percentage of my family are diabetic, I really wanted to run away from diabetes. I knew by diet and exercise that was something I could potentially avoid.”
“[Physical activity] is something that’s not necessarily engrained in our culture; food is such a large part of our culture as well,” Carey said. “Ashley played soccer in high school and I was the complete opposite all throughout high school. It’s just not something we grow up thinking about as a priority.”
“A lot of us grew up playing sports, but after college you fall off and no longer continue to play,” Hicks said. “Personally, it was the idea of learning how to transition.”
The women incorporate the success stories of their female followers on the Black Girls RUN! website. The inspirational stories give women the boost they need to accomplish their personal running goals. It takes on a domino effect. Carey and Hicks believe it’s always better to have a support system.
“Having someone there holding you accountable, role models and mentors,” Hicks said.
“They inspire thousands of women in making those changes in their own lives,” Carey added.
Some helpful tips for beginner runners from the founders of Black Girls RUN!:
- Beginner runners should get fitted for running shoes. A misconception that people have is that I’m going to go running and I’ll put on an old pair of shoes. That is the fastest way to get injured. Go get fitted at a running store and start the Couch to 5K program.
- A good place for beginner runner’s to start is the Couch to 5K program. It’s a good way to ease into running. I think the key is to slowly start to go from walking to running in intervals and work your way up to help prevent injuries.
Both women are shocked by the success of Black Girls RUN!, but are constantly looking for ways to improve.
“There’s so much we want to do and we have a lot of work ahead of us as far as tackling these statistics,” Carey said.
Note: The 2012 Black Girls RUN! Race to End Hunger will be held in Atlanta, GA on Friday, Sept. 14 – Sunday, Sept. 16. For more information on the race and weekend events, go to http://www.blackgirlsrun.com/drivetoendhunger/.
This article is reposted from content partner Team Fenom, an online community connecting fans and a destination for women’s sports news and fitness information.