No matter how you look at them, Janita 坡 and D. L. Dean are standout long-distance runners.
坡, 58, 亚特兰大的, estimates she's completed 17 half-marathons, 三个完整的马拉松, four half Ironman triathlons and one full Ironman. Dean, 52, of Marshalltown, Iowa, has done eight marathons, plus more than 350 half-marathons.
They also stand out because they are Black participants in an overwhelmingly white sport. That is why both also 有 found purpose in Black running clubs that help them spread the word about how running keeps them physically and mentally healthy.
"When I'm out there, I don't care what anybody says," said 坡, a member of South Fulton 运行 Partners, which was one of the nation's first Black running clubs when it started in 1979. In running, "I'm doing something really good for my body. 我和大自然在一起. There's no better thing that I could do."
运行's health benefits are clear. A 2017 review in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases found runners may 有 at least a 30% lower risk of death from all causes compared to non-runners and at least a 45% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. (Any regular physical activity, even walking, can benefit health. Federal guidelines recommend adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or at least 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, 或者两者的结合.)
Data show Black people in the U.S. 有 不成比例的水平 肥胖的, diabetes and high blood pressure, which could be helped through physical activity such as running. But surveys, and a glance at the crowd in many big races, show Black runners are relatively rare.
缺口后面是什么? For 坡, it starts with the lack of role models.
“你不 see us," s他说. And when you don't see Black people participating in running, "it's almost like the message is, “这是给白人的.'" Recreational running has a long history of being marketed just that way.
Another barrier, Dean said, is that Black men were stereotyped as sprinters, not distance runners. 事情的真相是, it wasn't really introduced to us,”院长说, captain of the Central Iowa chapter of 黑人跑, a national organization that encourages Black men to run for the sake of their health.
研究人员说,一个 lack of safe neighborhoods or sidewalks can be a barrier to exercise for some Black people. And the 2020 murder of Black runner Ahmaud Arbery drew national attention to the dangerous realities of racism. 同年，a 跑步者的调查 by the trade group 运行 USA found 39% of Black runners 有 safety concerns related to systemic racism, compared with 2% of white runners.
Distance events sometimes involve isolated country roads, and 坡 and Dean each 有 received clear messages of, “你不属于这里." In rural Georgia, 坡 has seen Confederate flags flying as she went to pick up a race packet. During a triathlon, a pickup truck once let a group of white cyclists go past, then blocked her.
Dean had a dog let loose on him during one race. In another, a young white woman screamed because he crossed her path as he headed for the bathroom.
Such "running while Black" experiences are common. But Black runners also routinely find joy, health and camaraderie.
坡, who started running in her 40s, said running is a relief from the stresses in her life, which include caring for her father while she finishes a doctorate at Georgia State University.
When she started running triathlons, she often was the only Black competitor, but she felt welcomed by other athletes. "It's not like we're being rejected when we get in the sport," s他说. "It's just that we don't 有 the role models, the access or knowledge of how to get in."
运行 clubs such as South Fulton 运行 Partners, 黑人女孩跑 and others help with that by offering a welcoming starting point for beginners, 坡 said.
It's also a place to share advice on Black-specific issues such as hair care – a significant concern for many Black women athletes trying to navigate complicated beauty standards. 坡 celebrates that she knows runners "with every different hairstyle you can imagine."
Dean, a deputy sheriff, said 黑人跑, too, welcomes runners of all levels, and more. "We don't just run," 他说. “我们有骑自行车的人. 我们有步行者. 我们做瑜伽."
The best part of running for him is the friendships he's formed. "You might not 有 known that person, but after one outing, one event, one run, you learn so much."
运行, 他说, lets him talk to someone for a couple of hours while simultaneously doing something to promote Black health. He started running to be a model for others in his family, where heart disease runs rampant.
Dean ran while serving in the Army Reserve, but his first race wasn't until 2012. Since then, he's done races in every state – twice over. 他穿着苏格兰短裙, which 他说 is a celebration of his heritage and also a way to appear disarming in a way that helps people 有 fun.
他说，乐趣很重要. In each race, "there's only going to be one or two winners. The majority of us won't win." But he's happy at the back of the pack, cheering on slower runners. "I believe in bringing the party to the course."
当他开始, he often was the lone Black runner, or he'd see others but wouldn't connect with them. Now, he'll often see five to 10 people he's befriended. "It's a wonderful feeling, to see I'm not alone out there."
坡 and Dean share a message to people considering the sport: Just try it.
"People think that you 有 to show up and you just 有 to run fast right away," 坡 said. “你不.“你可以走路. 你可以走一小段路. 第一步很容易. “穿上你的跑鞋. 打开门. 走出家门."
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