Ashlee Lawson and Jasmine Nesi are long distance runners and friends in Washington, D.C. However, they noticed that their running community was in need of some serious diversity. Lawson and Nesi wanted to fill in that void, so they created RunGrl — an online platform that was made with the hopes of inspiring, uplifting and informing black women distance runners.
"With a strong focus on community, and by thoughtfully curating content that shares our voices and our stories, we will change the existing narrative about what it means to be a runner," stated the RunGrl website.
The website has various blog posts and a latest campaign called #MyRunningHair, which focuses on dismantling the health risks that black women run by encouraging women to exercise despite their hair concerns. Wake Forest University conducted a survery in 2013 that found that 40 percent of African American women avoid exercise due to hair-related concerns, and 50 percent have had to change their hairstyle in order to exercise. According to the RunGrl website, the hair initiative aims to change that very barrier that many black women may find when it comes to working out:
"RUNGRL’s #MyRunningHair initiative is bringing attention to how we can reduce hair as a barrier to fitness by providing tips and resources for hair care and maintenance while running. We're also celebrating the many women who are already making it work. Our goal is to improve our community’s health and wellness overall, and encourage more women in joining the movement to sprinkle more Black Girl Magic in the streets. We're showing the world what our hair looks like and why that is so beautiful."
In an interview with Washingtonian, Lawson shared her hopes for creating RunGrl included using it as a vehicle to encourage black women to become more physically engaged with exercise. Nesi also shared a few thoughts with the Washingtonian, "For black women especially, when you think of running, you think of track. I think we fall off around the 800-meter mark."
According to News One, RunGrl hopes to achieve long-term results with their website, "(We want) to change what me and Jasmine see every time we cross the finish line at a half," shared Lawson. "How do we really change the narrative of running as a sport? It’s not just white men in split shorts."
The RunGrl platform is changing the world’s view of long distance runners. Other innovative, black women who are changing the exercise narrative in the exercising world are Brianna Owens with her spin class, Spiked Spin, as well as Leslie Jones with her back to your roots yoga class, Afro Flow Yoga.
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