Running for Change: Creating Safe Outdoor Spaces for All
Running has become a way for me to connect with myself and explore my ever changing back yard in this lifestyle. It’s a way for me to push my body and clear my mind. Running is also a gift that I get to share with my pup Amara. Together, we’ve explored some of the most beautiful trails and parks across the country.
However, it’s never lost on me that my experience is not the same as everyone else’s. For some, the simple act of running can be a dangerous one. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can work to create a world where everyone has safe access to the outdoors for healing and wellness.
As a Black-identifying road traveler, I understand that feeling safe is never a given. It’s a feeling I often have to work to achieve, especially when it comes to being outdoors. In the United States, where racial tensions and inequalities have a long and storied history, simply enjoying nature and feeling free in the outdoors is a privilege that is not equally distributed across different racial groups. This is why I run in honor of Ahmaud Arbery and for racial equity in the outdoors.
Running is a sport that everyone should have the right to do safely. Connecting to nature and being outdoors should be accessible to everyone. Nature is healing and I strive for a world where every individual, regardless of their race or ethnicity, can run freely and safely in the outdoors, where they can find solace, peace, and a deeper connection to the world around them.
The reality is that not everyone feels safe running or participating in outdoor activities. This is especially true for Black people and other people of color, who may face harassment or violence while trying to enjoy the outdoors.
Choosing vanlife was always about bridging the gap to be closer to the outdoors. I wanted to be able to explore different parts of the country, experience new cultures, and immerse myself in nature. However, the journey has not always been smooth sailing. Traveling while Black comes with its own set of challenges. There have been times where I’ve felt uncomfortable and unwelcome in certain places. But, I have also had some of the most amazing experiences of my life on the road.
My relationship with Amara is one that is deeply rooted in our shared love of running. As a companion on the trails, she helps me to feel a little safer and pushes me to continue running by reminding me every day that it's fun and our special bonding time.
She's always up for an adventure and never judges my pace or abilities. Together, we explore new trails and challenge ourselves to go further and faster. And, most importantly, Amara reminds me that I am not alone on this journey. Together, we can continue to push for change and make the outdoors a more inclusive and equitable space for all.
Running with Amara has also shown me that the joy of being in nature is something that should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background. The outdoors has a way of bringing people together and fostering a sense of community. It's a space where we can all connect with something greater than ourselves and find peace in the midst of chaos. But, for too many people, the outdoors is still a place of fear and danger. We must work to change this. We must strive to create a world where everyone feels safe and welcome in the natural world. A world where running and being outdoors is truly a sport for all.
One way we can do this is by actively working towards racial equity in the outdoors. This means taking a hard look at the barriers that exist for people of color when it comes to enjoying nature. It means acknowledging and addressing the systemic inequalities that have prevented some communities from having safe and equal access to green spaces. It also means creating more inclusive outdoor spaces that celebrate and welcome diversity.
We can also work towards creating safe spaces for everyone by becoming better allies. This means educating ourselves about the experiences of marginalized communities and actively working to challenge racism and prejudice wherever we see it. It means using our privilege and resources to create change and amplifying the voices of those who have been historically silenced.
Running has become a powerful tool for me in the fight for racial equity in the outdoors. It’s a way for me to connect with myself, with nature, and with my community. But, it’s also a way for me to advocate for change. By continuing to run and speak out, I hope to inspire others to join me in the fight for a more just and equitable world.
Noami is the founder of Diversify Vanlife, a community organization dedicated to creating a safe space for representation of BIPOC and other marginalized groups in the road travel and outdoor communities. Follow her on Instagram @irietoaurora & @diversify.vanlife, and learn more at irietoaurora.com & diversifyvanlife.com