Black Girls Run! Black Girls Run!

Black Girls Run Too!

Spring is upon us, and it's time to get back in shape!

What better way to lose the winter weight than to hit the park or the treadmill and run off some of those extra pounds from Fall and Winters' many holidays. We spoke with BlackGirlsRun.com founders, Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks, to get running tips on how Vixens across the country can get in shape and dispel rumors that running isn't a black sport.

Founded in 2009 to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community and provide encouragement and resources to both new and veteran runners, Black Girls Run! has a mission to encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority. They have a network of 70 running teams across the nation, and you have no excuse to not get involved!

Lace up your sneakers because Black Girls Run too!
VIBE VIXEN: Tell us how Black Girls Run! started?
ASHLEY: Black Girls Run! is three years old, and we started out as a blog back in March 2009. At the time, I had been running for two years, and we decided to start blogging about our running experiences since it was very few black women running.  We started off writing post on running, nutrition and health and fitness. From blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, we created a network initially of other Black runners and slowly we started bringing girls interested in running into the running community. Last year, we officially launched our own Black Girls Run! running group. Right now, we have over 60 groups and over 25,000 members.

Wow, your network grew fast. How do the various running groups work?
Ashley: We have running groups in different city with the largest being in major cities. We take in groups every six months for ambassadors who run the group in their city.

What type of women and runners are encouraged to participate in Black Girls Run!
TONI: We have people who have never run a day in their life to marathoners. It ranges from beginners to veteran runners

On the blog there is a post titled "Black Women Struggle with Body Image Too."  In Black culture, the voluptuous and full-figured woman is praised. What are your thoughts on that?
Toni: That's a tough question. On one hand, our community has done a disservice to woman by coining terms as "thick" and glorifying being bigger. While I believe that everyone should be comfortable in their own skin in regards to being overweight or obese, we shouldn't champion that. But then there is also the reverse end of that, where I think all women experience body image issues, and I think Black women get both ends of the spectrum.

What are some easy running routines that people can use to ease back into running?

What are some easy running routines that people can use to ease back into running?
Toni: The best plan that new runners can follow is the Couch to 5K program. It's 9 weeks, and it takes you from being a couch potato to running a 5k, which is over 3 miles. Using an interval program, you build up your endurance.

What's some good gear for ladies to buy to start running and getting back into shape?
Ashley: We always recommend that people get fitted for running shoes, because the easiest way to get injured is to go out and run in shoes not made for running or that are not appropriate for your stride. You also need a good sports bra.
Toni: Those are the two big things. And from there, as women commit to the sport, women should start investing in the proper materials. You should never wear cotton when running.

What are some of the misconceptions with African American female runners?
Toni: From my experience, one of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to look a certain way or be a certain size. The awesome thing about running is that someone bigger or older can have a faster pace. You can't categorize people with running. One of challenges is convincing women that they can begin to run if they are willing to put in the work and train for it.
Ashley: I agree with Toni. Once people decide that they are a runner, then they are a runner, regardless of what you see people who run marathons look like or what is portrayed on television.

It's still small percentage of African American runners. Why is that the case?
Ashley: We are slowly encouraging more African Americans to begin participating in running, but I think running is limited amongst African Americans because of culture reasons, due to lack of exposure and lack of information about the sport. I wasn't exposed to long distance running because my family exposed me to the more traditional sports. It's also due to lack of understanding of how and why you should run. Most people are used to running after a ball, not just running for sport, and I think that's the reason why there isn't a lot of African Americans involved in running today.

For more information on Black Girls Run! visit their site at www.blackgirlsrun.com and on twitter at @BlackGirlsRun.

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