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Black Girls Do Run UK is a running group set up by Tasha Thompson. The group is based in London but also boasts an impressive online following. Its mission is simple: to inspire, encourage and motivate black women to run.

Why was Black Girls Do Run created? 

Black Girls Do Run UK was created in response to my lived experiences of running and not seeing any women who look like me. In March 2019, after yet another race with very few black women at the start line, an awkward moment occurred when my running buddy Linda and I asked a race-marshal a question about the route and the marshal asked us ‘are you running the race?’. This was even though we were both wearing running gear and race numbers.

This prompted a post-race discussion about why so few black women in the UK run, the success of Black Girls Run in the USA, and what could be done to make a difference. To mark 20 years of running, as well as my love for the sport, it seemed only fitting to give back to the running community. The initial aim of Black Girls Do Run UK was to increase visibility of regular (not elite) women. But it was also a reaction to finding out that once the obligatory school P.E lessons finished at school, women’s activity levels plummeted.  

Doing 'safe' well

How much importance does Black Girls Do Run put on making the sessions safe, self-affirming, social and suitable? 

All of those are crucial to the way we think about Black Girls Do Run UK.  

From a safety point of view, women are often faced with things like cat calling whilst running alone, and research has shown that black women experience this more. We have a ‘don’t leave anyone behind’ mentality which is how we ensure that we stay safe. Our solution is to run in a group which reduces the anxiety and creates a safety net. We also encourage running remotely (like video calling from your phone when you run) if someone can’t make it with the group or has to leave early.  

But don’t let that put you off! It may sound like a bit of a cliché, but running is also self-affirming because it is such a huge confidence booster. It is impossible not to make progress, which helps to maintain a positive mindset. And then there is the fact that its easily accessible. We like to say that everyone is worthy of the name ‘runner’. All you need is a pair of shoes and you’re ready to go. The fact that it’s suitable to any shape or size means that you can find your tribe; a set of people who share traits and aspirations. And of course, there is the social side of it. I’ve lost count of the number of friendships that have been created through Black Girls Do Run UK—friends that not only run together but do other things too.   

All of this means that when you think it’s time for a bit of a break from running, you’re reminded about how much good it does for you, and you just have to get back into it.  

We like to say that everyone is worthy of the name ‘runner’. All you need is a pair of shoes and you’re ready to go.

What has the impact of BGDR been on you, and what would you say to other people thinking of starting their own group or changing something in their local areas? 

I wasn’t afraid to start ‘Black Girls Do Run’. Putting this club together was the best thing. It’s changed my life in so many ways and women need to know that. We are all worthy.  

I tell people to just start where you are and take the next step. You don’t need to wait for the perfect moment to do it. But also, don’t be surprised if people question what you are doing. Even one of my friends questioned the point when I set up Black Girls Do Run. “‘Why are you bothering, Tash?’ she said. ‘Black women don’t run.’” That attitude perpetuates a problem. But nothing changes if you accept it as fact. 

It also helps to do some outside the box thinking. Our idea to keep women safe by joining us on a video call is so simple, but it’s the little things that will make a huge difference to how someone feels and how often they want to go running.  

Once you’re up and running, get the word out. We’ve really benefitted from embracing social media. We promote on Instagram (which is by far our most popular channel), Facebook, Twitter and Strava. Look into that. You’ll be surprised how many people are looking for communities to join.