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Posts Tagged ‘representation’

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Here’s one way I knew I was becoming a runner: I started buying Runner’s World occasionally at the airport.

I’m not much of a magazine buyer, except when I travel. But it’s fun to browse the airport newsstand and pick up something to flip through on the plane. (Man, I miss flying. Anyone else?) I remember buying the issue of Runner’s World with Shalane Flanagan on the cover. Inside those pages was a whole Technicolor world of performance running gear, advice for running in all seasons and weathers, odd terms like “splits” and “intervals” and “taper” and “shakeout run.” And most of the folks in those pages looked like me – but also they didn’t.

As a white woman who’s always been healthy and thin (genes + decent eating habits + a love of walking), you might think I’d see myself in runners like Flanagan or Deena Kastor or Amelia Boone. But I looked at those chiseled bodies and read about their workouts and thought, That’s not me. I saw myself far more easily in the stories about amateur runners: folks who run for fun and fitness and to push themselves, who haven’t made it a career.

A few months ago, I stumbled on the Instagram account @diversewerun, which features runners of all races, genders and body types, and highlights why they run. It’s joyful and fun, and it regularly reminds me of the huge variety of people who are runners.

I knew that running culture – like so many “elite” spaces in the U.S. – often looks very white, but that people of all ethnicities run, and they deserve to be seen. But the particular stories shared on that account (founded by Carolyn Su) are teaching me new things all the time. And it reminds me that this is one more place where we all need to do better.

If I felt intimidated by running culture – and I’m white and healthy and I can afford new running shoes – how much more intimidating might it be for people of color, folks with disabilities, those who see the price tags on running gear and think I can’t possibly afford that? Representation matters, as always, and I love seeing Carolyn and others highlight all kinds of running stories.

Running has the potential to be so democratic: anyone who can lace up their shoes and run can become a runner, no matter your age, weight, size, gender, ethnicity or fitness level. I am grateful to have found a home in this sport, and grateful to others who keep sharing their stories and reminding us that there’s room here for everyone.

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