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Runner’s High

In 2009, two African-American female friends decided that enough was enough when it came to health disparities among women of color. They created “Black Girls RUN!”, an organization to help tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community. Fact: 80% of African-American women are overweight. That means that 8/10 black women you see on a daily basis, statistically-speaking, are likely overweight. That’s bananas and scary. Solely based on weight, your mom, sister, wife, daughter, grandmother, etc. are at increased risk of all sorts of nasty chronic (and potentially fatal) diseases: Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes (e.g., “Sugar), and certain cancers just to name a few.

Although the name of the organization implies that black women should RUN to get healthy, that is not the goal of the organization. The mission of Black Girls RUN! is to “encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority.” The vision? Aspiring to take a comprehensive and creative approach to improve the health statistics of women of color. See? Doesn’t say “run to survive”, although running is a great way to get in shape. BGR! aims to create a movement to lower that 80% and subsequently, lower the # of women with chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle.

I’m here to tell you that BGR! is doing just that. I am living, typing proof. I joined the MOVEment in 2013, 7 months following the birth of my first child. I was at my heaviest weight when I found out I was expecting. My OB advised me not to gain much weight, and I obliged, as my risk of preclampsia, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes increased as my weight increased. Being a black women was the (rotten) cherry on top. I knew I had failed at dieting and keeping up exercise routines in the past, mostly because I did not have the support. Specifically, the support of other women who were fighting the same battle I was fighting. So I joined a local BGR! group that ran/walked/jogged twice a week a few miles from my home. BGR! groups are everywhere. All 50 states, with multiple meet-up groups within each state. I was so excited to know that I had a few groups within a 20 mile radius of my home.

With encouragement from my run-boo’s, I’ve now run over 750 miles in the last 2 years, including 5k and 10k races and a half-marathon last October. These are goals I never had before joining BGR!. Goals that weren’t required or expected, like going to college, getting married, buying a home, having children…

No. This goal…THESE goals (to stop being sedentary; to improve my health and well-being; to find a hobby that I love and that has positive effects on me and those I love) were for me. It has become my therapy. It is what I do to maintain my weight but also my sanity. There is nothing like setting a personal goal and not only meeting it, but exceeding it. That said, running is NOT for everyone. I love it, but you may hate it. Or never try it. And that’s totally OK. What you SHOULD do, if you haven’t done so already, is to find YOUR healthy habit. BGR! welcomes you if you want to take that first step. For the men, you aren’t excluded. Black Men Run is doing the damn thing too. Here’s a shocking fact that may take your breathe away: Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for African American males. Not OK. We’re loosing right now. It’s time to turn it around.

Supporting one another is what we need so desperately. Get it done, or face the unfortunate consequences later on.