Elite Running Needs More Representation

Claire Green joins the Runners Alliance ambassador network as an advocate for increased representation in the elite running community. The professional runner for the HOKA ONE ONE Aggies and former University of Arizona All-America runner is using her voice to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement and increased representation in the sport through writing.

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RUNNER’S WORLD: What issues do you hope to address as a Runners Alliance ambassador?

GREEN: My main advocacy focus right now is twofold: the Black Lives Matter movement, and [writing for] RUNGRL, a website aimed at increasing diversity and representation in professional distance running.

I’m working with the RUNGRL Relay, which has been a really great platform to tackle both of these issues at once. [Ed. Note: The RUNGRL Relay is the site’s hub for running advice. It’s led by top athletes, coaches, and experts who are called the Relay Coaches.] It’s specifically for Black women, but also for anyone who’s interested in learning more about the Black experience in running. Recently it’s also given all of the Relay Coaches a wonderful way to communicate with our own communities and with the running community at large about what’s going on with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The main effort is to educate people as much as possible. To do that, I’ve been trying to find the most appropriate channels to get my voice and opinions out there when it comes to everything that is going on with the protests around the country and explain to people why these protests are so crucial and the history that goes into protesting when it comes to the civil rights movement. A lot of that is done via social media because it’s a really quick way for people to get information, but what I’m trying to do differently than other people is provide links and actions that anybody who happens to stumble across my feed can take immediately.

Caleb Alvarado

Why are these advocacy efforts important to you?

I come from a family with a long history of activism when it comes to the Black community, and I come from a mixed household. I grew up experiencing firsthand a really positive example of what it looks like when there is harmony between people of different races. And I think right now especially, people tend to feel that that is impossible. Myself and my family are living proof that it is not impossible and that the cohesion and coexistence of different races does not have to mean that bits of each culture are lost.

What’s happening right now is important to me because the fight for Black lives and the struggle to be seen as equal to people of other races has been a purely Black struggle and a purely Black fight for the majority of American history. And now it’s becoming a human rights issue and it’s something that people of other races, ethnicities, and backgrounds are starting to take up on their own.

Caleb Alvarado

What experiences led you to fight for racial justice?

I grew up in a small town called Louisville, Colorado, which is right next to Boulder. Growing up, my brother and I were always the only Black kids in our classes. That meant I had to learn to deal with daily microaggressions and assumptions people make about you. We were taught to try and educate when possible, but the majority of the time to just be polite and let those things wash over you because when you express distaste or frustration with microaggressions, oftentimes you get labeled as the angry Black woman or as violent, unstable. This is the first time I’ve felt that I can express my true feelings about the assumptions people make about me and my community in a manner that will be taken in a positive way.

Unless people understand the root of these movements and why this affects everybody, it’s not going to have any impact.

What is your ultimate goal with your advocacy work?

To educate as many people as possible, and hopefully influence them to impact positive change in their own communities. Unless people understand the root of these movements and why this affects everybody, it’s not going to have any impact.

What does running mean to you? How do you think running helps you in your advocacy work and in reaching the community you serve?

I was always a confident kid. When you’re growing up, everyone looks for the place where they feel special or they feel that extra boost to their personality; for me that has always been running. I started running when I was a freshman in high school, and it was the first time I felt that I was really good at anything. Throughout the past 10 years, whenever the rest of my life has been a little bit of a mess, I’ve always been able to turn to running and feel that joy and confidence.

That does not mean that I always have good days. I’ve had great seasons, I’ve had not-so-good seasons. I’ve had weeks where the last thing I wanted to do was go out and run. But especially being on the track, there’s just something about being able to work out extremely hard and be completely thrashed at the end that gives me a sense of purpose and confidence. I think it’s because you overcome a challenge every time you do it.

Running is a masochistic thing to pursue, and that is paying off right now because when it comes to social issues, you need to have tenacity. You’re going to get knocked down every day for years—these things take years to change. The process of doing something painful and difficult every single day since I was 14 has given me the correct mindset to spark change.

Caleb Alvarado

Running is a masochistic thing to pursue, and that is paying off right now because when it comes to social issues, you need to have tenacity.

On top of that, it’s so important to me and to other young runners of color to have increased representation in the sport. I cannot emphasize enough how useful and reassuring that would have been for me growing up. I might not be the fastest woman out there, but I hope that I can be a role model and an example for other girls who look like me and feel like they might not fit in the sport.

Why did you decide to become a Runners Alliance ambassador?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own fights and our own movements, and I saw this as an opportunity to continue to educate myself on the passions and struggles of other people. I thought that Runners Alliance would be a wonderful way to do that, to learn from my fellow ambassadors.

On top of that, the running community is such a small world. To have the opportunity to reach a large portion of that community is so wonderful and something that doesn’t come up every day. I hope to learn a lot from my fellow ambassadors, but also to connect with the running community on a greater level. Every day I meet more and more people and learn their stories. And the only common thread we have is that we love to run. Being able to do that on a larger scale is really exciting to me.

What are your hopes for the Runners Alliance?

As an individual, you can only impact so much change. So I think as ambassadors, if we’re going to work for something called the Runners Alliance, we need to truly form an alliance. It can’t just be the few people who you see associated with this name. So if we can form a true Alliance dedicated to improving safety and promoting diversity and sharing these stories and sharing what running has done to improve all of us, it is going to form that true community base. And in turn, I hope that it can help make things safer for women.

This content was originally published here.