Running is often touted as one of the most accessible sports there is — in theory, you need zero equipment, just your body (hey, some people run barefoot). It doesn’t cost anything, and you can do it anywhere. Its low barrier to entry means nearly anyone can try it.
While running is, by nature, a solo sport, it’s also one of the most community-centric sports because many people choose to join a running group or train together. And because it’s open to all skill levels, the running community is just as diverse as the people in it.
The runners profiled below all use running as a platform to build community and fight for justice — for both people and the planet.
Get to know these 7 impact-driven runners and running groups you should follow on Instagram:
Alison Mariella Désir
Désir is an activist, speaker, author, and mental health advocate who uses running as her vehicle for change. She founded the New York-based running group Harlem Run and Run 4 All Women, an initiative that has raised over $150,000 for Planned Parenthood and $270,000 for Black Voters Matter.
She’s the co-chair of Running Industry Diversity Coalition, which seeks to make the running industry more equitable and inclusive — and has helped raise $230,000 to date for the 2:23 Foundation, a nonprofit that was formed to pursue justice for Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man who was killed in 2020 while jogging.
Alison is currently working on a book, “The Unbearable Whiteness of Running,” out October 2022. She’s been featured by Under Armour, Shape, Vogue, and Women's Running named her one of the "Power Women of 2021."
Running To Protest
After getting chased from a protest by the police, co-founder Coffey (who goes by his last name only) turned his usual easy run into a marathon. Now Coffey, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, writer, actor, and activist, is leading hundreds through New York’s boroughs in search of racial justice. Running To Protest is a movement led by runners protesting monthly with dialogue, running, and meditation.
The first event took place on June 14th, 2020 when 700 runners met at the East River Amphitheater in Manhattan, New York, wearing masks on their faces and clad in white clothing. They were running in response to the reckoning on white supremacy and racial violence that had spread around the United States. Hundreds of runners flooded the bridges and streets of New York at this event and those to follow, demanding justice for Black people.
Boulder-Colorado-based endurance athlete and environmental advocate Clare Gallagher studied ocean health at Princeton University before becoming a professional runner in 2016. She’s the co-founder of Protect Our Winters, a climate advocacy organization and has testified at Colorado’s state capitol on air quality and renewable energy bills.
She’s sponsored by Patagonia, Petzl, La Sportiva, and Honey Stinger. She is an ambassador for Winter Wildlands Alliance.
Faith E. Briggs
Briggs is a runner, environmental advocate, filmmaker, and creative producer passionate about representation. She produced and is featured in the documentary “This Land,” which explores the impact of shrinking public land through the lens of running and inclusion. She launched a podcast about the project in March.
She writes about how she got to know Portland, Oregon through running and how running has helped her understand the region's complicated yet continuous fight for equity and inclusion.
“I think the best way to fall in love with a city is through running,” she told Runner’s World. “In Portland, hard conversations around gentrification and houselessness are as much a part of this city as the parks, bike lanes, and quirky restaurants filled with amazing food and incredible people. That dissonance, and the desire to find common ground, is a huge part of this city.”
Runners for Public Lands
Runners for Public Lands is an inclusive running community dedicated to environmental justice, advocacy and conservation. The Ventura, California-based organization is passionate about equitable access to nature, climate, public lands, and green space advocacy, and hands-on conservation work.
The volunteer-led organization launched on Earth Day in 2019 and collaborates with environmental organizations and corporate partners to educate runners on environmental issues and help runners transition from individual environmental awareness to collective environmental stewardship.
Daniel is a Los Angeles-based Indigenous runner, community organizer, and activist who founded the activist organization Rising Hearts. She combines her love of running and wellness with her calling to help those who are often overlooked in our society, including BIPOC people, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities.
“[Running is] now paving the way for our next generations of native youth and athletes,” Daniel told the Girl Soup blog in 2020. “It's an incredible platform and tool — it's a great opportunity to have these discussions, to give visibility to the things that you are most passionate about.
Sojitra, who self-identifies as a disabled person of color and Indian-American, is an athlete and disability access strategist who “uses #ninjasticking to bring intersectionality to the outdoors.” When he was only nine months old, Sojitra was diagnosed with septicemia, resulting in the amputation of one of his legs. When he summited the Grand Teton in 2014, his friend coined the term “ninja sticks” for the crutches he uses while running, skiing, skating, and in everyday life — and it’s stuck ever since.
He’s the first adaptive athlete for The North Face, a founding member for The Outdoor F.U.T.U.R.E Initiative, the co-founder of Inclusive Outdoors Project, and a disability access strategist for The Avarna Group, In Solidarity Project, and independently.
This story originally ran in The Sports Edition of the Goodnewspaper. The Goodnewspaper is our monthly print newspaper filled with good news. You can join thousands of subscribers who get access to more exclusive stories like these, our private community space, a free inspiring poster, and so much more. Become a subscriber today.