Sunday, February 19, 2012

Black Girls Run!

Wellness Fall Spotlight - Black Girls Run
Our Wellness tab focuses on health and wellness in the African-American community.  Be sure to check out our Wellness tab for our current spring wellness spotlight, "Let's Move."  

Our Fall 2011 Spotlight featured Black Girls Run.

With the increasing focus on African-American wellness, many organizations are bringing awareness and empowerment to the Black community to take their health into their own hands. Black Girls Run is doing a fabulous job of just that.

Do Black Girls Run? Of course we do. In 2009, Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks created Black Girls RUN! in an effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community and provide encouragement and resources to both new and veteran runners. The mission of Black Girls RUN! is to encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 80% of African-American women are overweight. BGR! wants to create a movement to lower that percentage and subsequently, lower the number of women with chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle.

Personal Note:  I have recently made a commitment to learn to run and am loving it!  I also joined the local Black Girls Run group and am loving it! On the BGR Facebook group we share tips on running for beginers and experienced runners. There are various running meet-ups throughout the Bay area during the week. I'm training to run the Oakland 5k in March and then the  DIVA Half Marathon in San Francisco in May. Follow us on twitter to see our progress @ExperienceHstrY.

For more about BGR, visit their website,

The following article appeared in the Greensboro News & Record newspaper in Greensboro, NC in August 2011:
Several African-American women in Greensboro are choosing their health. These women, organized as a Black Girls Run! group, are walking, jogging and racing their way into an endurance sport that has largely been populated by lean, white runners.
Indeed, black girls run. Their Facebook group is approaching 100 members. Workouts on Monday and Thursday evenings and on Saturday mornings have turned out up to 25 runners. They're lacing up to battle the well-chronicled statistics on obesity, which show that nearly four in five African-American women are considered overweight and are at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Robin Perry, the ambassador for Greensboro's Black Girls Run! group, is leading the charge, along with her co-ambassador, Bebe Ramzah. The energy from these two running and health evangelists will challenge the best gel or sports drink.
"I guess they see this as a passion of mine," Perry says. "That maybe 'we can do it, too.' You see people and how they look. I’m 48 years old; I don’t look 48. I want to stay healthy."
BGR Founders Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks
Perry's and Ramzah's roles as ambassadors are multiple: They convert more followers. They advise group members about where they can find gear. They hand out information about training plans, whether it's Couch to 5K or Hal Higdon's half-marathon. They talk about nutrition. They put out water for group runs. They coach and they mentor, and they make sure no one gets left behind.
"When I first started, I couldn't even do five minutes on the treadmill," says Ramzah, 40. "But now I've been running for two years.”
In late June, Ramzah turned in 10-minute miles in completing the Freedom Run 10K downtown. Perry, meanwhile, finished a half-marathon in the Bahamas in January, will enter another one in September in Virginia Beach, Va., and wants to return to the Bahamas next January to complete a full.
Perry and Ramzah are coaching several runners who are building up to the Women's Only 5K Walk & Run in Greensboro on Oct. 1.
Perry, a native New Yorker who has served as a licensed practical nurse in the Army Reserve, has recruited to the group by using Facebook, posting flyers and grabbing people in the streets and in the gym.
“Running is my passion," Perry says. "It has helped me get through my divorce. I grew up in Harlem; it’s helped me get through a lot of things.”
Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks started Black Girls Run! nationally in 2009. What began as a blog has turned into a web site, complete with Black Girls Run! gear. Hicks says that the current 40 groups across the nation, including ones in Raleigh and Charlotte, will likely become 80 within a couple of weeks.
"A lot of times people are intimidated, don’t want to get started and don’t even know how," Hicks says. "Now they have the tools to get started and they have a support system. A lot of our groups have a lot of walkers, they’re getting out there and starting to jog a bit."
And, being clearly in a minority in endurance running, they're drawing attention.
"When we're out running, we get that all the time," Ramzah says. "Like, 'What’s going on?'"
What's going on is that these Greensboro women are running to get in shape, to combat the health risks. To do that, they're also having to let their hair down -- or rather, let it go. Naturally. That's one key reason you don't see more African American women competing in road and trail races.
"For us it's a process of getting our hair straight," Ramzah says. "For a lot of African-American women, that’s the first thing they tell you, 'I don’t want to sweat out my hair.' It's more important for me to get out and be healthy and be in shape.
"I love to run and I love to compete. I put that as a priority to how I may look."

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