When Black women gather, magic happens, and such was the case when Jasmine Nesi and Ashlee Lawson met in 2014 as members of the run club District Running Collective. Running enthusiasts, who wanted to connect with more Black women in the sport, they were tired of not seeing themselves represented at races across the country, and in wellness spaces overall.
So what did they do? They gathered four of their running girlfriends, and formed the Washington D.C. based collective, RUNGRL. The organization was created to inspire, uplift and inform Black women about the power of running. They want Black women to know that they can just lace up their shoes, and walk, run â whatever. Through fitness and fellowship, these six women are on a mission to support everyday women on their journey to becoming their best selves.
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In this interview with ESSENCE, co-founder Jasmine Nesi shares how RUNGRL is impacting lives of Black women everywhere, and whatâs next for the brand.
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What was the motivation behind RUNGRL?
Iâm one of six co-founders and we all were based in DC, running around the city and traveling for races â both nationally and internationally. Thatâs how we all met. We saw a void the fact that there were Black women running, but we werenât represented in how people talk about distance running. We sought to fill that void by creating RUNGRL, so that we could feel represented. And also so that other people who felt the same way could be seen and heard. Our goal is to increase the number of Black women distance runners and to support and create a community for the Black women distance runners that are already out there. We create content, partnerships and experiences that speak to our specific experiences.
#MyRunningHair is a campaign that RUNGRL launched to bring attention to how Black women can reduce hair as a barrier to fitness. What was your own personal journey with your hair? And how did you overcome that to find your passion for running?
I straightened my hair because thatâs how Iâd grown up, and thatâs how my mom, and also the media taught me that Black beauty looked like. It wasnât until I started running, that I realized that I couldnât keep running and straightening my hair. The sweat and the heat werenât working together. For me, thatâs what started my natural hair journey. Itâs something close to my heart, because I would have never worn my natural hair texture how it looked had it not been for me prioritizing fitness too. Weâre all taught that straight hair is beautiful, but if you get your hair straight, donât you dare workout or sweat or get any type of moisture on it to preserve it. That was the first issue we wanted to tackle, because based on past conversations we had, realized that it was the first thing that came up as a barrier to fitness, and to running and wellness overall. So we provided different ambassadors who had natural hair, weaves, locs, those that straighten their hair and those that get perms â the full spectrum â to show hereâs how we do it. And provide tips so that you can see yourself doing them too.
Self-care and self-preservation is necessary for Black women. But as we seek health and wellness options to aid us on our journey of doing so, we often donât see ourselves represented in those spaces. Why did you want to create a place for black women in wellness to feel welcome?
Thatâs exact it â because weâre not represented. It doesnât mean that weâre not doing it. We just donât have a platform to share our experiences. Thatâs one of our goals for RUNGRL â to create a platform specifically for Black women to address wellness overall, and running as a means for wellness. Weâre there. Weâre just not being seen.
What does the RUNGRL community look like?
Our home base is a blog platform, and we live online. We have events as it makes sense. We try to do a series called âMiles and Mimosasâ every other month, and we just took RUNGRL on the road for a fall tour. Weâre doing 6 cities: Atlanta, Washington D.C. New York, Baltimore, Richmond and Charlotte, to create communities there, so they can connect with one another. But our home base is online. It started on October 21st in New York and it runs through November 17th.
For those that donât look like the âtypicalâ runner, does RUNGRL offer inclusivity to women of all shapes and sizes that want to start out?
We recognize that. I think itâs easy to reach the people who are already running. Itâs also important to reach the people who arenât but want to. Especially through our events, and our content, we try to represent the full distance running spectrum â from beginner to ultra marathon runner. Specifically for this run tour, we have a 2 to 3 mile run, and all paces and sizes celebrated. We are going to guide you through the entire way. You are not going to be left behind or alone in any way. By creating content that speaks to the beginner, and creating that community, people know that weâve got their back, and hopefully make people feel more comfortable.
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