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Mar 20, 2024

The Path to Purpose (and Running) is often Paved with both Strength & Struggle – Part II

To be inspired and to inspire are two of life’s ultimate objectives. And Tonya Bradley is the epitome of inspiration. “Initially, based on my social media posts, my friends would reach out to me because they saw me running. Some having health issues and some dealing with weight gain. They would reach out to me for advice. And I thought, you know what, maybe I have something that I can share in a different way. I then told myself, I want to be a run coach who primarily works with women, with those who have health challenges, and those who have stigmas attached to them as far as whether or not they can run or workout or do certain things. I started coaching and became an RRCA-certified run coach. I know how it felt when I couldn’t move when it was just hard to go. I just want people to know, you can go. You can get up, and we can just walk. You don’t have to run, but you’ve got to move.”

Her day job allows her to advance and protect the civil liberties of citizens as a strategic planner and project manager for a Texas-based nonprofit. In her spare time, she’s emboldened to do public health and community health work specifically targeted at eradicating racism, as well as racial disparities in healthcare. This passion and conviction were birthed with the loss of her oldest brother after witnessing his experiences of having to navigate a biased healthcare system.

“It was just such a dismissive type of care,” she recalls. “I just didn’t feel as if it was any equity there. Even with having my own health matters and having to advocate for myself, you notice how different people are being treated in different ways. With seeing how our communities are treated in the healthcare system, you have to liaise for people. I was so shocked and appalled by the fact that black and brown people are heavily and openly mistreated, coupled with having a lack of resources within their communities.”

It was instilled into Tonya at an early age by her father to always have pride in being black and to always be a proponent of equality. Parallel to Black Girls RUN!’s mission of encouraging black women to make fitness and healthy living a priority is also increasing our equity and diversity in the run community.

Tonya’s current run mantra is ‘pain doesn’t last always’. “Your mind is stronger than what your body feels. I don’t want people to think that it’s okay to push through pain. Running is not easy, but for me, my mind is stronger than what my body feels. Sometimes you never know what your body can do until you do it. I never want to give up too soon, at the first sign of struggle. Because sometimes it doesn’t last long. We just have to keep going. Sometimes we hit the mark and sometimes we don’t.”

Are there more marathons on the horizon after completing the majors? “I’m going to focus on half marathons, trail running, and ultras. Next on my bucket list is to run ultra marathons and trail races around the world and to check off all the continents. I love the vibe of trail racing.”

In closing, she wants to remind us all to never give up on ourselves completely. Running and life can be daunting and difficult at times. “We all have shared experiences. We’re all different, but we all have shared experiences and can learn, motivate, and inspire each other. We have to tap into each other when things get tough.”

May we all turn our struggles into victories, be a voice for the voiceless, create a life we love living, and remember that our minds are often stronger than what our bodies feel.

Connect with Tonya on IG: @tonyadbradley or via email:

By: Joy Harrell @joyrunsrealestate

Joy Harrell is a licensed real estate agent and co-owner of The Sift Sisters bakery based in Houston, Texas. She is a native Houstonian and graduate of the University of Houston—go Coogs! When she is not helping people buy, sell or invest in real estate, she can be found hanging or traveling with her hubby, running or biking the streets and trails in and around Houston, mentoring girls, or testing new food and cocktail recipes.