Increasing Diversity & Inclusivity in Running

The Running Community should be a safe space. A space for all genders, races, shapes, sizes, ages, and backgrounds.

The running community is where we can all come together and share our passion for running. I met Derek Oxley on Instagram, he’s a podcaster, creator, advocate, sneakerholic, runner, and in my mind – he’s an inspiration. He created his Podcast: “Behind The Wheel Podcast” where he highlights the achievements of ordinary runners and endurance athletes who are doing extraordinary things within their sphere of influence. His podcast covers running, entertainment, politics, sports, and more. He speaks about racial justice (and injustice), what’s currently going on in the world, and how WE can do better to minimalize racism and make a change. Derek was generous enough to take time out of his busy schedule to write us a blog about not only his background but his thoughts on how WE can do better as leaders in the running community. If you’re curious to learn more, check out his podcast: “Behind The Wheel Podcast” on Spotify.

“Okay, in a sentence, let me know why you run?”  I’m working on running RAP for a motivational track; it was a meme of Kevin Hart, with a caption that read, “Now Wayment, tell me again why you run?“

That’s the question I posed four years ago in a few running groups on Facebook-(March 16, 2016.). The response was overwhelming; they ranged from, “so I could eat cupcakes to keep from punching someone in the face.”

Now, I was faced with the challenge of creating a beat, writing lyrics, recording, and producing the track.  Fortunately for me, a random stranger named Gary who offered to write a few bars if I sent him the music; He shared this gem with the group “Because there are others who want to but can’t. So, I stretch out a couple of miles, instead of rant and raves, I go days for days. Some friends are amazed; others don’t seem phased.  Being healthy pays, and it keeps disease away, what more can I say?”

The extent of my music experience at the time was, playing the radio and pressing play on my iPhone before heading out for a run.  I was a wannabe DJ when in JHS.  I grew up on rap music and played the bass drum in high school, but this was a different challenge.

After completing a marathon, you start believing you can do anything.  I was still relatively new to running.  I ran my first marathon in October 2012 after Miguel and Sean talked me into doing the Hartford Marathon in CT.  Picture the scene, three guys standing in The Home Depot in front of the service desk, one White, one Hispanic and one black.  I’m the black dude.  I know I sounds like a bad joke but, it’s the truth.

I had to no idea or how far a marathon was at the time so, I googled it- 26.2 miles, oh really.  I made it through the training and crossed the finish line in 5hr:25min later.

This is pretty much how I figured out how to record and produce the tracks-google, and YouTube was my BFF.  My MacBook came equipped with GarageBand, so I was good to go.  With the help of Gary, I recorded “Running Through It.”

I found running after a pretty dark period in my life; I was divorced, depressed, overweight, and out of shape.  For two years straight, my sister would tell me about the Westport Running series, and for two years, I’d ignore her invitation.  One day I pulled a pair of old Reebok Zigzag’s from under my bed, and I went for a run, and I was hooked.

Running had transformed my life, and I wanted to share that joy with others.  I noticed runners came in so many different color shapes, and different size groups had different norms. Still, there was more that united us than divide us-I was looking to spread a message of positivity and unity.  I reconnected with a High School friend Alden, who introduced BMR. 

I knew music had a powerful ability to unite people.  So, I was banking on that fact, and I figured if I fused it with a message and images of runners, I’d get them to tune in each week.  For two years straight, I challenged myself to create a weekly race recap.  Each week I’d challenge myself to create a better piece than I did the previous week.  In a nutshell, the weekly race recap was a celebration of runners from around the world.

Running and writing became a source of therapy for me; it was also a way to connect with the audience through music.  I found myself sharing childhood stories and talking about relevant topics in the news, but they were mostly running-related topics. 

People looked forward to seeing the recaps each week.  I’d reach thousands of people each week with the weekly race recaps.  From there, it grew into to me Interviewing people behind the wheel of my car, and that’s how the podcast got its name.

I started meeting ordinary people who were doing EXTRAordinary things within their communities, and I wanted to share those stories with the world.

Running as a black man for me was a little weird at first because there weren’t many people who looked like me when I showed up at a race, or when I went into a running store to purchase a pair of kicks.  I grew up in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn during the “Crack Epidemic.”  I’ve lived in and worked in diverse communities all my life.

I know what it’s like to walk into a retail establishment as a black man and be ignored or treated as a suspect; you get used to it.  Nowadays, I walk into an establishment as if we’re old friends and I belong.  As a recovering Sneakerholic, I know a lot about kicks, so I tend to geek out when I enter a local running shoe store.  I feel right at home, I’m like a kid in a candy shop.

Diversity can’t be a fad!  At one point it was called multiculturalism, spare me the fancy words, it’s just the world we live in.  Diversity is good for business; there’s been an explosion in the running world among BIOPC.  It is in the running industries’ best interest to support local BIPOC Running groups.  Running World Magazine took a hit and will continue to see their sales shrink as many BIPOC magazines start to emerge-(we’re launching our magazine under the RUNUTAINMENT Umbrella).

Companies like Darn Tough and Ben & Jerry understand diversity, and their message isn’t ambiguous, nor is it over the top or preachy.  You know where they stand.

“What can leaders like Marathon Sports do to increase diversity and inclusion?”

1. Targeted community Involvement to increase awareness and benefits of running among BIPOC

2. Sponsor a progressive run series 1-10mi

3. Partner with local barbershops and business to sponsor 5K Half Marathon

4. Start a Podcast or a segment on BTW Podcast, sneaker/product reviews

5. Sponsor an episode on BTW Podcast

6. Hiring at the store level BIPOC

7. Partner with brands to help increase awareness and involvement of BIPOC in running

8. More of this reach out BIPOC bloggers Videographers, content creators and podcasters

9. Recruit at an early age in schools

10. The CRC Creative Running Collective is an eclectic group of individuals you are connected through their shared love for running and the arts.

To learn more about Derek and his podcast, you can follow him on Instagram: @Behind_The_Wheel_Podcast , visit www.derekoxley.com, or listen to his podcast on Spotify.