Former swimmer and swim instructor Karmen Brown wanted to get back in shape. She searched the internet for a running group to join. She found a Facebook page for a national running organization with a group in Atlanta–they were all black.
“I was looking for something where I could run and not feel weird,” Brown said. “You get tired of ‘you’re the token Black person doing all the stuff only White people do.’ You want to be with people who understand your plight.”
Brown joined Black Girls RUN! in spring 2012. The organization encouraged Black women to exercise, specifically run, in order to lead healthier lives and break the stigma that Black women aren’t runners. Brown looked through photos and was surprised that the women were all smiling and looked like they were actually having fun. The 27-year-old has loved her experience and feels inspired with every run.
“I love being with them [the group members]. I love running down the street and you hear people cheering you on,” Brown said.
The Black Girls RUN! F.I.T. (Fitness Intervention Team) Series hits Atlanta Saturday morning with sessions and workouts to encourage those who aren’t big on running to try other ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The event will host 400 people in Bessie Branham Park in the Kirkwood area.
“Some people get intimidated by the word ‘running,'” said BGR! PR coordinator Jay Ell Vaughn, who said that the series also shows women how to stay active without hitting the pavement.
The one-day series travels to different cities and features speakers about nutrition and lifestyle as well as sessions with local trainers in the areas of yoga, zumba, African dance and other forms of exercise.
“It introduces black women, especially, to healthy living and healthy eating, making it a part of their normal lifestyle,” Vaughn said. “Exercise doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be something you dread.”
United Health Care and REI sponsor the series, helping to bring in health and wellness specialists.
Since 2009 Black Girls RUN! has used its goal of helping Black women lead healthier lifestyles to propel the group into an organization that heads more than 52,000 members nationwide, 10,000 just in Georgia, according to their website.
Georgia is home to six BGR! running groups including Atlanta, South Atlanta, Warner Robbins, Augusta, Savannah and Columbus.
“You finally see your people and they’re doing something [this] big to break the cycle,” said Brown. Adding that the encouragement from her group members helps her complete her runs and hit her goals.
“They [BGR!] tell you to keep going, they tell you to keep pushing,” Brown said. “You’re doing something for yourself. You’re doing something for your children.”
Those interested in joining or just watching from a distance can catch BGR! on their Preserve the Sexy Tour part two which continues in July. Additionally, the group will hold its national conference and race weekend, a three-day conference in Charlotte, Sep. 6-8 that features an expo, sessions, a dinner, and a 5k/10k.