This month’s highlight is for Running While Black: Finding Freedom in a Sport That Wasn’t Built for Us, by Alison M. Désir (Instagram, Twitter, Strava). This is an essential read, and I would recommend it not just to runners, but to anyone. This is the first book I finished in 2023 and it sets the bar pretty high for this year’s books. Ryan and I listened to it together (sometimes in the car, sometimes while foam rolling!) and both found it incredibly well written and narrated, with rich documentation about relevant statistics, research and history.
The book is the opportunity for each of us to spend time educating ourselves about how the Black community has shaped distance running over the years. It is also a time to reflect on how this sport is still dominated by white people and how, despite the claims that it is inclusive of everyone, it has clearly not done enough to include others in the past. We can do better.
It provides concrete recommendations for the running industry, community leaders or individuals to stand up against racism and white supremacy.
One of the examples of the whiteness of running is shown in what people remember of history. The growth of distance running is typically associated with Steve Prefontaine or Bill Bowerman but Harlem’s Pioneer Club was funded in 1936. From its inception, the club was a leader in racial integration. One of its members, Ted Corbitt, became the first president of the New York Road Runners club and organized the inaugural New York City marathon (which he also won). The role of both the Pioneer club and Ted Corbitt has been nearly erased from history and it is only starting to get corrected recently as shown in this article published on NYRR’s website in 2021.
NYRR and the TCS New York City Marathon are a gift to the world from New York City’s Black community and the New York Pioneer Club of Harlem.The New York Pioneer Club: A Civil Rights History, NYRR
I’ll close this book highlight by reminding you that February is Black History Month, so please take the opportunity to educate yourself and how you can actively improve the diversity in our sport and our society. Last year, DPMR issued its first diversity statement and we are only getting started.
Leave a Reply