Black Girls Run defies the perception of Black women and exercise

Honoring Black History

RICHMOND, VA (WRIC) – Jay Ell Alexander is down 115 pounds. At her heaviest she was 304 pounds. In her twenties she had a bout with high blood pressure and instead of going on medication to bring her numbers down, she focused on physical activity.

And with that lifestyle change, Alexander is now leading others by her example. As the CEO and founder of Black Girls Run, she says it’s important for women to take a moment and refocus on self care.

“We are taking care of our families, being caregivers, making sure everyone is being take care of before ourselves,” Alexander said. “We have to teach people that we cannot pour from an empty cup.”

Black Girls Run was founded a decade ago to motivate women to take charge of their own health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four out of five Black women are overweight. This group of runners is determined to confront this health crisis head on by encouraging women to get healthy by training together.

Black Girls Run defies the perception of Black women and exercise
CEO and Founder Jay Ell Alexander is down 115 pounds. In her twenties she had a bout with high blood pressure and instead of going on medication to bring her numbers down, she focused on physical activity. (Contributed photo)

Today, the organization has over 200,000 members and over 75 running groups across the country.

Black Girls Run is also about changing the perspective of what a runner should look like. According to a “Running USA” survey, less than 2 percent of marathon runners are African American. This group is aggressively challenging that.

Karen Anderson leads the Richmond city chapter of Black Girls Run and she says, “It’s very important for people to see! It’s a myth that women of color don’t exercise. But this shows that we do.”

Black Girls Run defies the perception of Black women and exercise
Richmond’s Black Girls Run group meets at Byrd Park for a run.

Normally, runners in the group would be preparing for an upcoming challenge – a marathon, half marathon, 10k or other event. But times are different now due to the pandemic. Instead, the organization is focused on meeting in smaller groups or participating in virtual races.

For women new to running, Black Girls Run offers the Walk Before You Run program developed to take you from walking to running your first 5K.

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