I finally got around to reading an article in December’s Runner’s World entitled Why Is Running So White?.
It’s an interesting question, especially for someone interested in issues of race and ethnicity in all facets of life. However, the author, Jay Jennings, doesn’t really answer the question in the headline. He’s answering another question: why are there so few African Americans in the running community nationwide?
I got through the article, which discussed issues of safe communities for running, a dearth of US-born black distance runners to look up to, high school coaches’ insistence that young black kids interested in running become sprinters and not distance runners, hair, and black running groups.
It’s a good read, but at the end I felt like something was missing. While the article mentions minorities and people of color interchangeably, it’ really only about African Americans. While Latinos are the largest minority group in the US, we’re mentioned a few times in the 6,000 word article. There’s no discussions about issues that might affect Latino participation, which likely overlap a lot with black runners. Instead, the only time we’re mentioned is for statistics about running and health issues (for reference, comparison to blacks and whites, maybe). Examples:
Still, the numbers, compiled between January and May 2011 from nearly 12,000 respondents, are eye-opening: “Core runners” (who tend to enter running events and train year-round) are 90 percent Caucasian, 5.1 percent Hispanic, 3.9 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and, in perhaps the most startling figure, only 1.6 percent African-American. (The sample adds up to more than 100 percent because respondents could mark more than one choice.) Those numbers are consistent with ones from other surveys, such as Runner’s World’s, and have remained low even as the number of runners has grown by 56 percent in the past decade, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. (The overall population, from the 2010 U.S. census, is 72 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic or Latino, 13 percent black or African-American, 5 percent Asian, and 1 percent American Indian or Alaska native.)
According to a 2006–2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control, blacks in the United States had a 51 percent higher prevalence of obesity and Hispanics a 21 percent higher prevalence, compared with whites. As for diabetes, these groups fare even worse: Compared with non-Hispanic white adults, the risk was 77 percent higher among non-Hispanic blacks, 66 percent higher among Hispanics, and 18 percent higher among Asian-Americans.
What gives, Runner’s World? Last time I checked, Latinos were people of color too. It’s 2011, articles about race in ______ or people of color in ______ shouldn’t be so black/white.
I had another issue with the article. There’s little about socioeconomic issues or costs associated with running. Poverty rates are higher amongst blacks and Latinos. The recession hit both groups hard and unemployment rates are higher. As someone who is middle class and employed, running isn’t something I consider expensive. I can afford to buy $100 running shoes every few months, pay for $30-$130 for race fees, and buy new running clothes when needed. If I was one of the many un- or underemployed in the nation, I wouldn’t be so willing to spend what little discretionary income I had on a hobby. A lot of people say running is a relatively inexpensive hobby, but my guess is that the “core running” community is also fairly middle class. I’m pretty sure poor people don’t think it’s inexpensive.