When I run I seek that feeling I’ve felt many times before. The mindless forward trotting. The active meditation. It usually happens midway through a run. As a morning runner, I often finding myself waking up in the first 1-2 kilometres of my jog. Also, because I run in the city, there is not always an opportunity for a mindless flow. I have to stop at red lights and for cars backing out of driveways. I have to remain alert to the city hazards. Until I get onto the recreational path on Lakeshore. Here, I can run without worrying about many things. It’s often where I find my stride and my meditative mind. Somewhere after acknowledging my stiff legs, reminding myself I love this movement, if it’s feeling like a sluggish day, and perhaps giving myself the encouragement of “I Am I Can I Will I Do”, if I’m lucky, I’ll realize I’m in the quiet mind, body working in unison stage. The runner’s high.
But I am learning this is a luxury for many.
As a woman, I do have to be alert in certain circumstances. And, I never run too early when it’s dark. But once it’s light out, I rarely think about how I may appear to others or whether I may be perceived as a threat to others, in a way that could end up being a threat to me.
I have thought about this, when hearing about tragic and unnecessary violence perpetrated on Black runners. For example, when I heard about Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old Black man who was running through a Georgia suburb in February 2020, when he was pursued, shot and killed by two white men (a father and son) with guns. Cate wrote about this in this post.
A Black runner I follow on Instagram, recently shared an IG video from Christopher Rivas. His video explained how he feels as a BIPOC, running in Los Angeles. He describes how he doesn’t get to that runner’s high, because he spends most of his time, while running, thinking about what others are thinking about him and whether he is safe.
And, lest we Torontonians think this is an American problem, a BlPOC woman I follow on Twitter shared the following the other day:
“Went to the Scarborough Bluffs with the boys this morning. There was a ton of white people who were absolutely terrified of us. One white lady jokingly said that we looked like a gang…it was funny to her.”
For a second, I was surprised. I thought, who would say such a thing? But I know enough, to know, that I have the privilege of thinking this type of behaviour doesn’t exist in Toronto. It’s a sad reminder of how much work there is to do to support people who have to endure this type of racism, over and over, again. And the problem is Canada-wide, as this man eloquently describes in his article about being a Black man in the Canadian wilderness.
If one looks for information, they will see that this is a well documented and regular problem for BIPOC in the outdoors. There are lots of tips about how to be a better ally. The woman who tweeted the information posted above about the Scarborough Bluffs incident, mentioned in another post that allies can speak up when witnessing these types of situations.
Here are some links to resources about how to be an ally outdoors:
I can’t be completely blissful with my meditative high, until I feel that the majority of people feel just as comfortable while participating in their outdoor activity of choice. I am committed to continuing my learning and finding ways I can speak up, acknowledge, follow and help those that seek to do so.