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Running While Black: Finding Freedom in a Sport That Wasn't Built for Us

Running While Black: Finding Freedom in a Sport That Wasn't Built for Us

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A searing exposé on the whiteness of running, a supposedly egalitarian sport, and a call to reimagine the industry

“Runners know that running brings us to ourselves. But for Black people, the simple act of running has never been so simple. It is a declaration of the right to move through the world. If running is claiming public space, why, then, does it feel like a negotiation?”


Running saved Alison Désir’s life. At rock bottom and searching for meaning and structure, Désir started marathon training, finding that it vastly improved both her physical and mental health. Yet as she became involved in the community and learned its history, she realized that the sport was largely built with white people in mind.

Running While Black draws on Désir’s experience as an endurance athlete, activist, and mental health advocate to explore why the seemingly simple, human act of long distance running for exercise and health has never been truly open to Black people. Weaving historical context—from the first recreational running boom to the horrific murder of Ahmaud Arbery—together with her own story of growth in the sport, Désir unpacks how we got here and advocates for a world where everyone is free to safely experience the life-changing power of movement.

As America reckons with its history of white supremacy across major institutions, Désir argues that, as a litmus test for an inclusive society, the fitness industry has the opportunity to lead the charge—fulfilling its promise of empowerment.

About the Author

Alison Mariella Désir is an endurance athlete, activist, and mental health advocate. Currently cochair of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition, a Run Happy Advocate for Brooks Running, and an athlete adviser for Oiselle, Désir is the founder of Harlem Run, a New York City–based running movement; Run 4 All Women, an organization that fundraises for social justice–focused nonprofits; and the Meaning Thru Movement tour, a speaking series featuring mental health experts and fitness professionals. A graduate of Columbia University with her bachelor’s and two master’s degrees, including a master of education in counseling psychology, Désir has been published in Outside magazine and contributed the foreword for Running Is My Therapy by Scott Douglas. Running While Black is her first book. Désir currently lives outside of Seattle with her son, Kouri Henri, and partner, Amir Muhammad Figueroa.
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.11 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.3 x 0.97 x 9.29 inches