“It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” That’s the idea that has inspired Sabrina Pace-Humphrey’s to make a change in the trail running community. As a child, you had dreams and goals based on the people you saw, but if none of them looked like you, it was hard to imagine yourself doing it. Young black runners haven’t had enough idols to look to, and in the trail running community? They’ve been nonexistent.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any black trail runners, but they are almost never in the public eye. That is, until Sabrina took over the cover of the most recent Runner’s World magazine issue. Sabrina shared her excitement for trails, work on diversity expansion, and running tips with us. You won’t want to miss it!
You Need More Than Just Shoes to Run
We often celebrate running as the simplest, most inclusive sport. “All you need is a pair of shoes!” While that may be the only gear you need (though even that can be debated!), a running community is also crucial to supporting runners of all types. Without races to participate in, groups to run with, coaches that encourage and teach us, running wouldn’t be what it is today.
For the minorities in running, the need for more than shoes is even more imperative. When it comes to trail running specifically, there are additional barriers. Simply the geography of trail running is a natural excluder of black runners. Most trails happen to be outside of urban areas where black populations are sorely outnumbered. For Sabrina, a black, middle-aged mother, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against her.
Sabrina has worked to change that. She co-founded Black Trail Runners and speaks out to brands, helping them find ways to expand their target audience to people of color. She told us that for companies it has to begin internally. In order to become more inclusive and diverse, you have to look at the process for the decisions you make. How are you picking who you’re hiring? Or marketing to? That’s where it begins.
So You Think You Want to Be a Runner
Sabrina didn’t start running until she was in her early thirties. Now she’s an ultramarathoner, on the cover of Runner’s World, and a running community leader. As mentioned before, she’s a mother, a grandmother, a woman of color, and a native to the British countryside. If anyone wasn’t “meant” to be a trail runner, it was probably Sab.
Long story short, if she can do it, so can you. Sab started running after having her fourth child. Her doctor recommended she find some type of exercise to combat her postpartum depression. She had never enjoyed running, but decided she would try to run a mile.
That first run was awful. She felt like she couldn’t breathe, that she couldn’t do it, but then, she finished. Ever since that first run, although many have been similar in difficulty, she’s never regretted finishing a run. “It’s a miracle, it’s magical,” she says.
Sabrina’s Secret to Tackling Long Distances
Sab has now run some very impressive distances. She’s competed in what’s commonly known as the “toughest footrace on earth,” Marathon Des Sables, a 250km race in the Sahara Desert, along with many other ultra-marathons. Even with those mammoth races under her belt, she still takes it one step at a time, chunking up each training session or competition into smaller bits.
A very visual piece of advice that Sab gives when you are out on a run that just feels plain hard, is to think about the devil and angel on your shoulders. The devil tells you that you can’t do it, that you’re not meant for it, or that it’s too hard. Sab pictures stepping on that devil with every step forward she takes. Each one pushing it further and further down. You can do it, and the angel on your shoulder will be proud when you finish.
Whoever you are, you can be a runner. People like Sab are making sure of that. If you don’t see a runner like you, be that runner for the next person. Take one step at a time, chunk it up, and let that little devil know what you are capable of.
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Thank you to my wonderful sponsor Tracksmith, Momentous, and Trumpaclart for sponsoring this episode of the Running for Real Podcast.
Tracksmith is a Boston based running clothing company that truly cares about the quality and care of their running clothes. Running can be a demanding lifestyle for our clothes, they definitely go through the wear and tear to where we may be purchasing new clothes constantly. Tracksmith designers truly work with the finest materials and think of you as a runner in mind with spots for your keys, phone, and fuel. Not to mention they have their fall collection out! You can also go here to check out my favorites!
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Here is a brand new sponsor, Momentous and I’m excited to start this relationship with them. This week I want to highlight Momentous collagen. Use Momentous Collagen Peptides daily for long-term joint health, resilience against injury, and faster return to running. The most popular ways to use are in a smoothie or with your morning coffee! It mixes in super easily and is totally unflavored. Most products claim to be “unflavored” but still carry a strong scent of their source, be it bovine-hide or marine collagen. Ew.
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A place where you can go support #BlackLivesMatter movement by purchasing t-shirts made by Matthew James Barker and other products. They are committed to raising funds for Black Lives Matter. Based out in the UK, go to their Instagram or their website to show some support to them for the Black Lives Matter movement!
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Thank you to Sabrina, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.