In 2011, we hosted our first race meet-up in Atlanta with ladies flying in from all of the country to run the then, Georgia Publix Marathon, and to meet the faces behind Black Girls RUN! We were shocked and stunned as we sat looking around the table listening to these women from various backgrounds and running abilities, share their passion for running and the need for community and dialogue around black women’s health and the lack of minorities in the running industry. Honestly, if it weren’t for those brave souls taking a chance and accepting our invite to run a half-marathon with us, we wouldn’t be the organization we are today.
Since then, our race meetups have been one of the pillars of the Black Girls RUN! experience. It’s an opportunity to meet women from around the country who share the same excitement and love for BGR!, while accomplishing whatever distance or beating whatever time they have trained for for weeks. It’s a time where we can rally around each other and celebrate one another as we are all on a journey to become a better version of ourselves through running.
For years we partnered with running events and race directors to carefully choose racing events and locations that would welcome our BGR! members with open arms, only working with organizations that truly believed in our mission and vision and understood the greater impact that our organization was making, not only in the African-American community, but how it was transforming the running industry as a whole. We developed healthy partnerships that were a win/win for both organizations. For them, they would increase their race numbers on race day with the ability to align themselves with our brand and market directly to our members. For us, we would receive partnership and/or marketing dollars to help us financially grow the organization.
However, over the past several years, we have seen a tremendous shift in his model - unfortunately for the worst. There are numerous event directors and race organizations that we no longer work with simply because they refuse to support our organization from a national level -- deciding it’s in their best interest (and more cost effective) to approach our groups, members and ambassadors directly and offer them discounts, perks, and sometimes money to market their event to our local groups. While this may seem harmless, it has caused severe financial implications to our organization and has ultimately threatened the sustainability of Black Girls RUN!.
When this happens, we are unable to approach these organizations to develop a partnership because they already have the groups, members, and ambassadors promoting their event….for practically free, instead of paying Black Girls RUN! marketing dollars nationally. Simply put, these organizations are using Black Girls RUN! for its benefit without contributing or giving back to the people who work hours on end every day to make sure our groups are operating seamlessly, that our website functions, or that our lights remain on. They are simply profiting off of an amazing idea that Ashley and I had back in 2011.
We’ve thought long and hard about how to approach this, and we believe that the only way to make change happen is through transparency. With that being said, we have compiled a list of races and organization that we no longer do business with because they were unwilling to support Black Girls RUN! from a national perspective, have side-stepped our organization to use our community and our ambassadors to market their events without compensating the organization, and/or have piggybacked on events or stolen our concepts to give themselves a better market position while continuing to milk the BGR! brand in its marketing and advertising.
And, honestly this list does not include the countless other races that have broken national protocol and have created relationships with our local groups. We need your support and commitment to make sure we work with races that support Black Girls RUN! at a national and local level. We want to make sure the organizations we partner with realize our worth and do not just want to capitalize off what we can bring to the table vs. it being mutually beneficial. We need your support and commitment to stop the cycle of creating these relationships with races without having the proper approval.
This isn’t about creating drama or “putting someone on blast,” however, as social entrepreneurs and small business owners, we realize the value of Black Girls RUN! to OUR community and how we have almost single-handedly changed the face of women’s recreational long distance running in the United States.
The power of Black Girls RUN! Is immeasurable and it is up to all of us to preserve our history, our legacy and our future.
Toni & Ashley