I moved to New York City after working for almost a decade in TV news and I was on the verge of a mental breakdown.
I worked for a boss who said: Mississippi viewers want to see a beauty queen. As a result, I stopped eating to lose weight after having my son and my hair started falling out due to the extreme heat I used to keep my hair straight. I was desperate for a change.
While in New York, I pitched a story to The Shadow League and considering where they get their name from, it was a breath of fresh air to dive right into something new for me. With a renewed focus and purpose on a fresh perspective on the work, I no longer have to worry about my weight on camera, and I can wear my hair and be my most authentic self, however, I see fit.
There is a free group in New York City that empowers black women of all ages to improve their physical and mental health through running. Since 2009, Black Girls Run has grown to 10 thousand athletes. Organizers want to promote health and fight obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 80% of African-American women are overweight.
Shelly Wilson is now a fitness instructor. 3 years ago she began running, since then she lost 125 pounds. She enjoys helping other people get healthy and motivated. Just be consistent. Take it day by day. You didnt gain it all in a day and youre not going to lose it all in a day. You dont have to buy a product to help you lose weight, there is a healthy way to do it.
Her running coach is 65-year-old Gisela Perez. She has been running for 45 years and ran at least 30 marathons and an Ultra. This mom is the coordinator for the morning BGR marathon group in the Bronx. They run about 5 to 7 miles each session. To join this group runners must be able to run 3 miles without stopping. The goal is that no woman is ever left behind.
Its the sisterhood that helps the woman keep pushing towards their individual goals like 63-year-old Alnisa Shaeazz. She is a grandmother and takes care of her mom. She is also a registered nurse and an educator, but she still finds time to stay active. She ran her first marathon last November and now gives back by helping new runners on Saturday mornings in Central Park. Running helps her concentration and focus and now she has a new group of friends thanks to BGR.
It wasn’t until 1966 that the very first woman was documented running and completing the Boston Marathon. 50 years later, women continue to make impressive strides in and out of the running world – making up the majority of finishers in half marathons and marathons, according to Running USA.
The group says they havent had many examples of black women running, in fact, one wife and mom refused to run before joining BGR. I just had my second child and put on 30 pounds. I was like how am I going to get this off and I was intimidated by running because I didnt feel like I had the shape or body to do it, said Elizabeth Reidy. This is why NYRR Director of Community Programs Zakia Haywood said Black Girls Run is becoming a movement. The face of the runner is definitely changing. We never use to see too many women or people who look like us in the races, so when you see the shirt and headband it’s like OMG I have a sister on the course this is great.
I noticed people cheering on the women as they ran past Yankee Stadium. Haywood said thats normal. Tuesday we were out here and we went for our run and it was amazing to see everyone blowing their horns. People wondered what are yall doing up so early? We were up with the garbage men, but they loved it and they cheered for us. This is really what community and grassroots really is. Were #strongertogether.
One of the immediate benefits of running is not only weight loss but mental health. My job is very stressful, very intense. I need to get this run done so I can deal with whatever comes my way at work, said Perez.
I didnt want to commit to running with the experienced group Thursday because quite frankly I should be in the couch to 5k program. Days after my interview I decided to self-evaluate my endurance. I mapped out an 8 mile run to the Shadow League office from my Brooklyn apartment. I used the time to clear my mind. Honestly, I ran a mile and walked a mile but when I arrived at my destination, I felt proud and energized. I now feel like I can tackle any goal I set for myself especially a 5k.
This assignment was a reminder that running is the basis for all sports. We can all be athletes, but first, we have to get up, grab a friend and start moving.
You can find a time and group that works for your schedule on the Black Girls Run website.