March 22 2018
One month after her last race as a collegiate athlete, Hannah Hartzell is curious to see where her passion for running will take her next.
Ashley Hicks & Tony Carey, Founders of Black Girls Run!
After gaining a few extra pounds in the years following college, Ashley Hicks turned to running as a way to lose weight and shed stress. Soon, her college friend Toni Carey, inspired by Hicks’ success, decided to try running as well and fell in love with it. The friends began participating in races, but were consistently surprised and discouraged by how few African-American women they saw at events.
“Our biggest hurdle was the lack of diversity in the running community,” says Carey, who explains that she often received looks of confusion when she told family and friends she was going for a run.
Hicks and Carey discussed ways to change perceptions about running in the black community. Their solution? A fitness blog. “Black women needed to see other black women running,” Hicks explains. In 2010, the two friends organized a meetup with followers before the Atlanta Marathon and the response was overwhelming. Attendees wanted more and Black Girls Run! (BGR) went viral.
“The community aspect of BGR is what women want,” says Hicks. “We support and love on each other without being catty.”
Today, BGR has grown to more than 70 groups across the country. Carey and Hicks have infused their inclusive-but-sassy message into a number of efforts, including traveling running clinics (Preserve the Sexy), an annual conference (Sweat With Your Sole) and super-cute gear for purchase. As for the blog that launched a movement, Hicks and Carey continue to dish out helpful advice about everything from 5K training to good hair days.
“Hair is a huge issue, and we don’t allow women to use it as an excuse,” says Carey. “Health comes before your hair!”
Hicks: “For me, it’s the stories of our members who have overcome so much to be able to run. They’ve battled weight loss, health issues, finding the time for themselves and more.”
Carey: “Recently we met a mother and daughter who were both in BGR. The mom became so emotional talking about how BGR had helped her realize she needed to take care of her health. I had that sense of: Wow, we’ve really done something here.”
Black Girls Run! needs volunteer ambassadors across the country. If you are interested in bringing BGR to your community, go to blackgirlsrun.com to learn more. Black, white, it’s all good! But, sorry, fellas: The one rule is no men.