Last week, I read something in passing that really got me pondering is running accessible to everyone?
I am incredibly guilty of saying that pretty much everyone can run. All you need is a pair of shoes and some road. Fancy gear is fun, but certainly not required, so if you want a simple, unstructured workout, get out there! No excuses! But it’s really not as simple as that, and my encouragement, though well-meaning, does come from a place of privilege.
Running can be cost-prohibitive
Even in its simplest iteration, running might be cost-prohibitive. To say “all you need is a pair of running shoes” makes the assumption that everyone has the time and ability to get properly fitted for a pair of good, supportive shoes, and then purchase the ones that feel best. Let’s not forget replacing them every 300-400 miles, too. Even on sale, a good pair of shoes can run about $80, which is a great price… for running shoes. But it could also be an electric bill, a car repair, next week’s groceries, or part of a rent or mortgage payment. Sure, you don’t NEED the “proper” footwear, but now you’re looking at an increased possibility of injury, which can also become a non-starter.
It can also be unsafe
When you live in the rural burbs, you sometimes forget the world can be a dangerous place. Granted, my nemeses come in the form of bobcats and snakes, but that’s small potatoes in the safety realm (Real talk. Bobcats are terrifying. Avoid them.) There are plenty of runners who have sidewalks and streetlamps and friendly neighbors, but there are also people who live in areas that are hazardous. When you can’t roll out your front door and go for that run safely, it complicates things. Not everyone has access to a safe location, which can make running a complete no go.
But outside might be the only option.
For some, the streets might be the only place they can run. Treadmillls are certainly not a staple in every home, and not every neighborhood or apartment complex offers a gym. Membership in a fitness center is an added expense, even at establishments that offer an income-based sliding scale, so that means that some people who want to run might find themselves making laps of their living room in order to cobble together some miles. That’s not sustainable.
Children don’t watch themselves
At least not legally, until a certain age. Good childcare is a blessing, but it can also be hard to find, and expensive, especially when you might need care every day. The reality is that while some parents have flexible schedules, can trade off workout times with their partners, or even take their kiddos with them on their run, that is not a feasible option for many.
Prioritizing time to exercise is not always possible
Yes, technically you should be able to do anything to which you set your mind, but the reality is, there are only 24 hours in a day, and sometimes, we just. Can’t. Make. It. Work. When you have to clock in at a job, get the kids to school, grocery shop for your elderly parent, get Johnny to the orthodontist and Suzie to softball practice, while helping Bobby with his diorama… well, a run would be a nice reprieve, but so would five minutes of silence in a dark room.
How can things change?
Everyone deserves to have time for themselves. People who want to run, should be able to do just that. Fitness leads to healthier people, which leads to so many benefits for individuals, their families and friends, and all their relationships and commitments. In no particular order, here are ways we can help make the changes to open up safe running (and fitness) to more people.
Small ways to help (in no particular order
If you have a friend who keeps saying they want to run, but they just can’t, gently probe to see if there’s any way you can offer support. There’s a difference between someone who can’t run due to extenuating issues, and someone who can’t run because they don’t have a babysitter or is nervous about being alone. In those cases, maybe you an offer childcare or babysitting swaps, or even suggest a meetup.
Look for groups like She Runs This Town, Black Girls Run, and the November Project in your area. Most of these groups are free and offer support, a sense of community, which can be vital to the accessibility of the sport.
Donate your gently used athletic shoes and gears to local organizations, or even offer them up on your neighborhood Buy Nothing group. Many local running stores have a shoe donation program as well. What might not be working for you anymore might be just the thing for someone else, trying to get started.
Support local running programs in your areas. Girls on the Run is just one well-known organization that does great things with girls and running. In our area, Marathon High works to support at-risk teens through running. Groups like these welcome volunteers and financial donations.
Take a self-defense class. If you’re afraid to be out for a run, take the steps to protect yourself. While it’s unfortunate that people need to worry about defending themselves while trying to do something good for their own health, the reality is that sometimes we need to go that extra mile. Check with your local police department, too: sometimes they offer complimentary classes.
Stay close to your local politics. This way, you can help effect change on topics like greenways, public tracks, and improved security in unsafe areas.
Is running easily accessible to you? Do you work to make it more so for others?