Black Men Run Boston assembles every Saturday for a soul-enriching run and lately they’ve had the wind at their backs. The 45-member organization is one of about a dozen to recently receive $7,500 in grant funding from the Boston Athletic Association’s Boston Running Collaborative.
The purpose of the funding is to inspire all of Boston to a diverse running community, including at the iconic Boston Marathon. About $118,000 has been awarded in all.
“The ultimate goal is to diversify everything that we do,” said Adrienne Benton, a newly-appointed member of the BAA Board of Governors, the first-ever Black woman to have a seat in the organization’s 135-year history. “We have to help people understand what the opportunities are within the sport. What are the different types of jobs? How do you become a coach or how do you become an official in the sport? How do you become an elite runner?”
For Benton and for Black Men Run Boston Captain Jeff Davis, the mission is not singular. While representation in marathons and other places around the sport are important, health outcomes appear to be what drive them individually.
“If you live in Back Bay today, your life expectancy is 91 years,” Davis explained. “If you live in Roxbury today, you’re a majority Black, lower income community, right? Your life expectancy is 58 years. So tell me how you lose 30 years of your life expectancy by walking three miles?”
Black Men Run cites a study from the Virginia Commonwealth University. The data is about ten years old, but researchers there say the disparities haven’t changed much over that time.
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During the warm-up of one Saturday run in the city's Dorchester neighborhood, Davis explained the partnership with Boston Running Collaborative this way: “If people want to do a marathon, fantastic. But that's not the bar of success for us, I think it is building a movement where Black people specifically can see themselves investing in their health and feeling supported in that process.”
In addition to receiving funds from the BAA at differing levels, partnering organizations get a seat at the table in the Boston Running Collaborative.
Boston Public Schools Athletics, also a grant recipient, is in on the discussion, as well, bringing the total number of funded partners to 13. Over time, their collective goal is to diversify the Boston Marathon, while also closing the gap on racial disparities across Boston’s neighborhoods.