Here’s how I’m encouraging more minorities to try ultra running
By Henry Howard
As I approach my 11th anniversary as a runner, I’ve been mindful of how open and welcoming the community is to everyone. Still, there’s a wide disparity when it comes to the makeup of participants, which is especially notable in the trail and ultra running community.
The vast majority are white, and there are more males than females. We are now seeing the highest percentage of women ultra runners, 23% compared to just 14% just 23 years ago, according to the State of Ultra Running 2020, published in September 2021. Australia, Canada and the United States lead the nations in the survey, each with around 35% female participation.
The report did not reveal a breakdown by racial, ethnic, gender identification or other groups. But the lack of minority representation is clear to anyone who has lined up at a start line of an ultra.
There are notable ultra runners of color who are elite or well-known. Coree Woltering and Mario Mendoza, of course, come immediately to mind. Other notables who call the U.S. home include Adam Merry, Errol “Rocket” Jones, Jameelah Abdul-Rahim Mujaahid, Mirna Valerio, Sabrina Pace-Humphreys, Sheldon Subith and Edison Eskeets. Better known for his other military and athletic achievements, David Goggins has also run ultras.
The list above is by no means complete. The point remains: there are few runners of color who participate in trail and ultra running events.
So how do we, as a community, work to be more inclusive?
The 80/20 Endurance Foundation is committed to improving diversity in endurance sports. Last fall, it funded the Coaches of Color Initiative. Its mission is to “provide meaningful support and opportunities for people color aspiring to successful careers as endurance coaches,” according to its website.
There are other initiatives out there. Ultra running media have begun to address this by sharing stories about inspirational Black ultra runners, how Native American runners are honoring their heritage and more.
Still, there is a long way to go. And I’ve been wrestling with how I can help in this effort.
As a running coach, I have athletes who are white, Black, male, female, straight and gay. Still, I can do better and be have a roster that is even more inclusive.
I am offering a 50% discounted rate and leaving three coaching spots open on my roster for minorities who would like to run their first ultra marathon. For the purpose of this exercise, I am defining minorities as not only different racial and ethnic groups, but those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Each athlete would receive the same benefits as my other athletes do. That includes a customized training plan, updated weekly, regular communication and feedback, as well as advice specific to their fitness level, experience, goal race and more.
The time commitment would be between four and six months, though we can discuss a longer arrangement.