A recent national survey showed that fewer than 2 percent of black Americans regularly run.
Just 1.6 percent of 12,000 regular runners polled in a survey conducted last year by Running USA, a national nonprofit group dedicated to promoting running and related industries, were black.
Ashley Hicks, a Greenbrier High graduate now living in New York, is trying to change black attitudes toward running through an online blog called Black Girls RUN!
“The real story on how we got started was (Black Girls RUN! co-founder Toni Carey) got a Nike Plus and she’s like, ‘Hey, this is a really cool thing. You should try it out,’” Hicks said. “I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll go on their Web site and check it out.’
“(Nike’s) whole thing is building communities. I thought it was really cool, so I created a group and named it Black Girls RUN! From there, we started talking and started blogging.”
Though Black Girls RUN! started as a blog to document the ladies’ progress, it has expanded into an advocacy and networking group for black women. The group has about 70 chapters across the U.S., including Augusta, and is followed by thousands on Facebook and Twitter.
“I don’t really take that much time to process how big we’ve gotten,” Hicks said last month. “The last couple of weeks, in doing our financial statements, I realized that wow we have really grown. It takes some time to wrap my head around all of this.”
On the site, members participate in a forum, merchandise is sold, running products reviewed, and fundraisers held to benefit non-profit groups promoting running in black communities.
Hicks, who will graduate with a masters degree from Columbia University in May, said she and Carey imbue the site with their “spirit and passion” for helping others achieve through running.
“We get a lot of thank-you emails,” Hicks said. “They’re all really meaningful. One lady ... sent me an email saying she was crying in her coffee trying to lose weight. She Googled our Web site, felt inspired, and went out for a run. That meant a lot to me.”