As the co-founder of Black Girls RUN! (BGR!), I am proud that my love and passion for running has inspired and empowered African-American women across the country not only to live a healthy and active lifestyle, but to push the boundaries of their mind and body while debunking cultural myths. When I started this journey, I discovered a startling obesity static that plagues women in my community: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 80 percent of African-American women are overweight or obese. I knew I wanted to do something to change that harsh reality.
While my role as co-founder of BGR! ranges from managing our events and merchandise to literally taking out the trash (the joys of entrepreneurship), I have the honor and privilege of witnessing woman after woman – black and white – accomplishing the seemingly impossible and finding a path to self-discovery while becoming a healthier version of herself.
When I started out, running gave me a greater sense of self-awareness and allowed me to tap into mental blocks that I never knew existed. It was an outlet to make sense of problems that needed to be solved, a quiet place to retreat and meditate, and a way to grow my mental toughness. That feeling was so addicting, I began to seek other healthy ways for coping with the everyday stresses of life, from yoga, to weight lifting and biking.
When we launched BGR! in 2009, I knew I wanted to share my journey so that other women would realize the benefit of running was far more impactful than what the naked eye could see. I was excited to inspire women to start their own journey and discover their own path to mental, spiritual and physical wellness that could start with running.
Oftentimes, women find BGR! because they want to reclaim their lives – whether that be shedding pounds, accomplishing non-scale victories like improving their overall health for a better quality of life, or to work through years of emotional pain and trauma. To me, the latter of these reasons are the most important because I'm personally able to help these women transform from the inside out. To me, there's no greater accomplishment that helping women heal by tackling new physical challenges.
With more than 70 groups and 200,000 members across the country, BGR! has inspired a movement to get more women active and to make their health and the health of their a family a priority. Our members serve as living, breathing examples to young girls everywhere, so they too feel empowered to be strong girls in a world that too often tells them they should feel otherwise.
BGR! gives me hope for a future where women everywhere can find their voice and strength through physical activity and self-care. That's what WE call sexy! And, as our tagline suggests, it's never too late to "Preserve the Sexy!"
-Ashely Hicks. Wife, mother, and co-founder of Black Girls Run!