Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks of Black Girls Run! Give the Skinny on Their Nationwide Movement

The founders of BGR! talk camaraderie among female runners, spreading the word via social media and why it’s important to observe National Running Day beyond June 6

Black Girls Run! founders Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks launched the runners network in 2009 (Image: Black Girls Run)

Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks were certainly not prepared for the spark they were about to ignite. In 2009, the innovative duo started Black Girls Run! as a means of documenting and creating support for their own running experiences. Little did they know, this personal journey would erupt into a national movement comprised of black women inspired to run. Carey, an entrepreneur and public relations specialist, and Hicks, a marketing professional, power an all-runners-everything site, which features product reviews, running group meet-up locations, and runner spotlights. With over 30,000 “likes” on Facebook, more than 9,000 followers on Twitter, and 67 BGR running groups across the country, black girls are revolutionizing their fitness regimens at a time when the obesity epidemic is threatening communities of color at a significantly higher rate than their white counterparts.

Nearly four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese, according to the Office of Minority Health. Black Girls Run! was created to lower that rate, and subsequently decrease the number of women with chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the BGR founders at the 5th annual Blogging While Brown conference, held June 1-2 in Philadelphia, PA, to discuss their over 25,000 women movement.–Yoli Ouiya

How did Black Girls Run! get started?

Hicks: It was just something that kind of came together through a couple of conversations that we were having about our experiences running. We were just like, ‘Hey, this is something, we should blog about it.’ And that was it.

Carey: One of the things that sparked this whole conversation was when I first started running, I called my mom and said, ‘Hey, I want to start running. I got these shoes, they are dope,’ and she says, ‘Black girls don’t run.’ Just like that. ‘It’s something white people do.’ ‘Really, mom? That’s racist,’ was my response.  She would say things like ‘your uterus is going to fall out,’ which is a myth, and that was why women couldn’t run marathons until the ‘60s. That all led to the creation of Black Girls Run!

At what point did you realize this was more than a group, but a nationwide movement?

Hicks: I think by September of last year. The running groups were about five months old and the interest was just starting to pick up, especially the visual of seeing black women running through the streets of your city. That’s when we realized that there really was a movement.

Social media has played a huge part in getting the word out about BGR. How have you been able to spread the word and grow your following?

Carey: Social media continues to be a big part, but I think when you are in your city and you see 30, 40 black women running through your neighborhood, everyone’s automatically like, ‘What is going on?’ That is not something you see every day. That kind of still fuels the growth in people just being interested in what this running thing [movement] is all about. There are so many black women doing it. I want to say it’s a trend now. Hopefully, it’s a trend that continues.

What message would you like to send to African-American women on National Running Day on June 6?

Hicks: I think that the message is, I always default to our tagline: ‘Preserve the Sexy.’ That says so much about really preserving who you are from head to toe. A lot of times it’s making sure, like with black women, it’s ‘Oh, my hair has to look good right now.’ But really it is just preserving everything about you.

Carey: Yes. Mentally, spiritually and physically.

What’s next for BGR?

Carey: Well, our big thing is we are hosting our first road race in September in Atlanta, partnered with AARP. That will be September 14-16. You can go to our website blackgirlsrun.com for more information.

If you want to join a Black Girls Run! group in your area, visit the BGR website and follow the movement on Facebook and Twitter.

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