Monday, August 15, 2011

Why Is Running So Damn White?

Very interesting article, from the Anniston Star, of all places (it's in Alabama, I checked), about how the sport of running is very...white. And also educated and wealthy, but mostly white.

Now, if you're a regular reader of the R's, you know how I feel about the way the sport of triathlon is heading. It's becoming a rich, white-man sport, much like golf or skiing. I absolutely hate it, but that's the way I see it going. When you have to spend $5000 just to compete with the rest of the crowd, there's something wrong with the sport.

But running? The writer at the Star, Tim Lockette, actually does a pretty nice job of trying to check all the angles. It's not easy to understand. I mean, running isn't triathlon. Running isn't pricing anyone out. If you've got a pair of running shoes, you can run. Another $25 will get you into most races. That's pretty good.

So why is running so white? I mean, 90% white. The running community is under 2% African-American. That's sad.

And it's a harder fix than triathlon. With tri, you can almost write the whole sport off. If you don't have money, choose another sport. Period. But that's not the case with running. There's no money issue. do you fix the problem?

And I do think it's a problem. I love running. I want other people to love running. I don't want barriers to keep people from enjoying my favorite sport. If America is made up of 64% white people, 13% African-American people, 8% Hispanic people...then those are the numbers that should make up American running crowds! If not, why?

I don't know. But if you've got a great idea, let's hear it.

Well, you'd think I would have expected it, but...just try to find a decent picture of a distance run with a runners from a bunch of different races. Good luck. The front-runners at Boston, yes. A picture of the other 99% of the races run in America, not so much. I finally gave you can see.


  1. Hi, Scott. Interesting post. Check out Runner's World. There's a similar article this month along this theme.

    I run with a group of black women, and I think more black women are starting to run b/c there are nice support/community groups that welcome women of all sizes and shapes running. I've thought about participating in some of the group runs in town but have been intimidated by the super skinny fast non-black girls who would leave me in the dust. Now, this is obviously just my naive and likely FALSE perception, but that was my mindset.

    My group now is made of women of all sizes and we just have fun! Some are running pretty fast and others are just starting. We just finished training for a half marathon and had a really nice group finish the race at solid times.

    This "community" is very welcoming and it's encouraging to see someone "like" you out taking care of her body.

    I've been cycling for a few years now and have just gotten over the fact that I am likely to be the only black person much less black female out riding in a group of 100+ people. In our local triathlons, there may be 1 other black female and a couple of black men, but it's all good. Obviously, I got over my "only one" issue with cycling b/c I really enjoy riding A LOT!

    If I go to the Atlanta area, however, there's a VAST difference from the running/cycling community in SC. There's a black cycling club in Atlanta called "MAC" and a HUGE "Black Girls Run!" group with chapters spread out all over the city. So, I guess it just depends on where you are.

    I think the tide is shifting as several of my black and Hispanic friends from all over the country are starting to run. Sorry for the long post, but I just wanted to let you know we're coming to more communities . . . slowly but surely.

  2. Jill, thanks very much for the post. And keep up the running! And biking!

    Glad to hear you see things changing. I hope that continues...there and up here in the NW.