Run The Block – New Initiative Aims To Expand Black Ownership In The Running Industry

Samantha Choy and Henry Selis

The Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC) launched “Run The Block,” a new initiative aiming to expand BIPOC ownership in the running industry.   

Running stores with at least 51% Black ownership can submit an application until May 15, 2024, and the selected business will receive a $200,000 grant in addition to mentorship from a team of industry leaders.

The RIDC was founded in July 2020 in the aftermath of the racial reckoning in America following the high-profile murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery who was shot while jogging.

As an educational nonprofit, the mission of the RIDC is “to unite the running industry to improve the inclusion, visibility, and access for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).” The organization is “dedicated to championing transformative change within the sport,” and partners up “with brands, race events, retailers, and run clubs to ignite unparalleled advancements for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in the running industry,” the website states.

Run The Block – New Initiative Aims To Expand Black Ownership In The Running Industry
Samantha Choy and Henry Selis

Kiera Smalls, the Executive Director of RIDC, sat down with ESSENCE to discuss the RIDC and why “Run the Block” is going to transform the industry. Smalls is an avid runner who got her start after a friend asked her to run a 5K in college.

“Our organization serves a dual purpose: to educate, hold accountable, unite white individuals and then amplify, uplift, shine a light, provide resources, to BIPOC individuals and organizations. RIDC is on the precipice of what’s possible in this industry,” says Smalls.

As a kid with asthma, Smalls recalled how she used to think of running as “that’s not for me, but for everybody else. I’m a kid with asthma. But this time, saying ‘I can handle that.’ I started running more [5Ks] and ultimately worked my way up to a half marathon.”

“Run the Block” “is part of our five-year strategic plan,” Smalls explained. “One is to grow the number of committed and action-oriented member organizations working towards the RDC mission, and the second one is to grow the pipeline of BIPOC professionals, leaders and owners in the industry.”

This program was born after RIDC’s baseline research found that “96 percent of respondents who identified as owners in the running industry were white, despite white individuals making up only 59 percent of the US population.” “We were particularly interested in retail ownership, and the physical space where you can build or maintain the community. Our thought was, what can we do to increase ownership there?” said Smalls. “We had a conversation with Brooks, who agreed to commit $200,000 to put directly in the hands of ownership.”

“When Brooks first joined the RIDC, we were most excited about the opportunity for brands and retailers to come together to support necessary change in the running industry. We jumped at the chance to back RIDC’s ‘Run the Block’ pilot program because we saw it as a powerful way for Brooks and other industry leaders to help increase diversity in run,” Brooks President and COO Dan Sheridan stated. “Together with our partners and allies, we aim to provide Run the Block beneficiaries our expertise and experience to help them succeed and thrive.”

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