|Runners in Berlin #berlinblackish2017|
By Mwabi Kaira
It was winter 2012 and I had my fuzzy slippers on, sipping on a cup of tea with my feet up flipping through my copy of Essence magazine when I read something about Black women runners. I took a mental note and thought one day I’ll run something and went about my day. At the top of the year I met Shonda, my college friend for lunch, and she brought along another friend. Turns out, that friend belonged to the same organization I was reading about; Black Girls Run! I told her I was interested and in March I laced up my tennis shoes and went to my first Black Girls Run! I couldn’t run to the mailbox at the time, but something inside told me I could do this and I listened.
I was a good runner all the way up until fifth grade when puberty hit, yes I was an early bloomer. I noticed the audience of boys started getting larger at the finish line and that was the end of that for this shy girl. My first run with BGR in 2013 was a struggle…It was 3 miles and I think I only got through a mile and a half because I didn’t get the directions right and instead of getting lost I decided to just go back to my car. And I didn’t run the whole distance. I pushed myself to run a block then walk until I caught my breath before running again. The following week, I went back and was encouraged by the women of BGR to just do my best. I made it past the point I stopped the week prior, so I felt pretty good. I kept going back week-after-week and the consistency paid off; my breathing got controlled as I ran, I found my cadence and eventually I could run the entire 3 miles without stopping. The weekly BGR meet-ups became so much more than about running but about sisterhood and encouragement. Their mantra is “no woman left behind” and these ladies will wait for you no matter what your speed is. The faster ladies will finish the route and actually come back and run beside you till you finish and all the women are waiting with high fives and cheers of good job. These ladies taught me what running shoes to buy, what kind of compression pants and sports bra to get, and had running tips. I ran my first 5K that May and my first 10K that October. I couldn’t believe that I was a runner! No one was more surprised than me when I signed up for my first half marathon and ran it in March 2014.
Michelle Richardson was almost 300 pounds when she decided to take control of her health and weight. She changed what she ate and started exercising, first taking walks and moving up to jumping rope. As she dropped weight she added running. It was not easy but she kept at it and refused to quit. Michelle says, “I use to be that overweight girl wishing that I could do it. I remember struggling through my first 5K and now here I am with over 120 pounds lost naturally and I have run over 11 half marathons and 1 full marathon. I am so proud of myself and know if I can do it with discipline anyone can.”