11 Black-led Organizations and Influencers to Follow

Members of Black Girls Run pose for a picture in front of a fountain.

The running industry has long been criticized for its lack of diversity. White runners have historically been featured much more prominently in advertisements and on social media than Black athletes. According to a 2016 Wall Street Journal article, only 8% of frequent runners identify as Black. Many Black runners have been vocalizing their fears and frustrations about the discrimination they face, which was amplified after Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while running in 2020.

Black activists and athletes are working to shift the narrative about what it means to be a runner. From dedicated running clubs to powerful pro athletes, these eleven Black-led organizations and influencers each have their own unique message. Follow along on Instagram while they run, create and inspire.

Adina Crawford smiles as she sits on a bench

Adina Crawford

Adina Crawford is a certified Yoga Instructor and an advocate for body positivity. She teaches Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga, mindful meditation and more. “I’m bringing more awareness into the body positivity space by working with brands, such as Terry Bicycles, REI and Athleta, to create more size inclusiveness,” she explains. Her Instagram feed is a mix of motivational posts, quirky snapshots and, of course, Yoga poses.

If you’re looking to get into Yoga but don’t know where to start, Crawford’s classes are perfect for yogis of all levels. She teaches in the DC Metro area at Clarksburg Yoga & Wellness, ACAC Germantown, Anytime Fitness and Fitpro for Athleta. She also offers private events for brands, businesses and clients.

Not only is Crawford a Yoga expert, she’s also a marathoner. She completed her first marathon at the 2017 Chicago Marathon. Crawford inspires her followers to empower themselves through positivity, saying “God has given me the heart and hands to help others.”


Alison Désir

Alison Désir is a marathoner, an author and an activist. She’s made a name for herself in the running industry as she advocates for more representation in the sport for LGTBQ athletes and Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities.

Désir founded Run 4 All Women in 2017, an organization that uses running as a way to spark change. Run 4 All Women raised over $100,000 for women's reproductive rights during their very first event, according to their website. Désir also serves as a Captain of Harlem Run, a social running group in Harlem, New York City.

In addition to her advocacy work, Désir is also a published author. She wrote the foreword for Running Is My Therapy by New York Times Bestselling author Scott Douglas. In 2020, Désir became chair of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC). According to their website, the RIDC strives to “create a more equitable and inclusive running industry where race, religion, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, socioeconomic status, and ability do not serve as barriers for full enjoyment.”

Alysia Montano sits and smiles for a photo

Alysia Montaño

Alysia Montaño is a professional track and field athlete who currently runs with Altra. A seven-time USA Champion and a two-time World Champion, she has proven her dominance in the 800 meter event. But her medals and accolades aren’t the only thing she’s known for.

In 2014, Montaño captured headlines when she raced the USATF Outdoor Championships at 34 weeks pregnant. She finished last in the event, but her unprecedented attempt was a rallying cry for pregnant athletes and mothers everywhere. She returned one year later to win her sixth national title.

“It really was groundbreaking because, at the time, there was just this idea that getting pregnant was a career ender for women,” Montaño explains. “But there was a lot of evidence suggesting that women have a natural hormonal boost after having kids. So it’s just a societal thing that’s telling women once you have kids, you're dead and gone.”

Montaño publicly spoke out against her former sponsors about their treatment of pregnant athletes. She also founded a non-profit organization, &Mother, dedicated to helping women thrive in both their careers and in motherhood.

“A lot of what makes changes in our society is visibility. I hope that, by stepping out there and showing the visibility of motherhood in this career track, I can make changes and destigmatize women continuing to work while pregnant and exercising while pregnant,” Montaño says.

Follow her on Instagram to see snapshots of her training, her activism work and her new clothing line of maternity activewear set to launch this July.

Photo courtesy of Louis Montaño

Members of Black Girls Run pose for a picture

Black Girls RUN!

Black Girls RUN! was created in 2009 as a way to encourage Black women to get and stay active. The organization provides resources for both amateur and experienced runners, as well as anyone who wants to get in shape. They offer 5k training programs and group runs, as well as motivation and support.

Jay Ell Alexander, owner and CEO of Black Girls RUN!, originally joined the organization to find a sense of community on her journey to a healthier lifestyle.

“Black Girls RUN! continues to be a powerhouse and movement in the health and fitness community. We’ve gone from a grassroots organization to a staple in the running community. People know us, recognize us and look for us at events,” she says.

“My goals for Black Girls RUN! are to continue to grow in cities across the country and internationally. I want women across the country to think of us first when they are starting or on their fitness journey and need a community to grow with them,” Alexander explains. “I want us to continue to be able to provide resources to women wherever they are in their journey.”

Black Men Run

Black Men Run was created to encourage Black men to embrace a healthy lifestyle by walking and jogging. According to their Instagram page, they’re the largest African American male running group. They have chapters all across the country, from Florida to California.

Lawrence Harrington, Captain of BMR Philadelphia, joined the group in 2019. “The core values of the organization - brotherhood, unity and health - are values that are near and dear to my heart. Prior to joining, I hated group runs because they would challenge me to push further than I wanted to push myself. Now, I cannot imagine running without my BMR brothers every Wednesday and Saturday,” he explains.

Not only does Black Men Run host group runs, they partner with other organizations to serve and support their local communities. Last October, the Philadelphia chapter hosted several group runs in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. They also spread their message to children living in neighborhoods heavily affected by gun violence.

“BMR has definitely allowed me and my co-captain, George Morse, to use this platform to amplify our voices when it comes to addressing issues like domestic violence awareness and gun violence prevention in our community,” Harrington explains.

Civil Rights Race Series

The Civil Rights Race Series, created by the Walk Jog Run Club, held their first event in 2018. What originally started as a relay race to commemorate the Selma march in Alabama quickly turned into a series of races highlighting the entire history of the Civil Rights Movement. The first race, which followed the route of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march, was so successful that organizers knew they had to put on another event.

“We thought that because the route was so austere, people wouldn’t want to come back. But it was the opposite. Athletes kept saying they wanted to come back next year and bring their families,” explains Vergil Chames, one of the event organizers.

The Civil Rights Race Series has expanded to feature events all over the country recognizing significant events from the Civil Rights Movement. Every event in the Civil Rights Race Series has three objectives - to promote health and fitness, to inject capital into communities in need, and to tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement. In 2020, the group hosted One Million Miles for Justice, a virtual race benefiting the Children’s Defense Fund.The race brought in 8,000 participants from 16 different countries and raised $250,000.

“If we don’t tell the story of what’s happening, no one will. There is a need for us to recognize and commemorate these events because none of us were alive during this time,” Chames says. “There has to be a collective of like minded individuals of all skin tones that speak to these issues.”

Claire Green smiles in her headshot

Claire Green

Claire Green has been a tenacious competitor on the track since her days at the University of Arizona, where she won several Pac-12 honors. After graduating, she joined the HOKA ONE ONE Aggies Running Club to further pursue her running aspirations. She now competes in the pentathlon for Team USA. Not only is Green a talented athlete, she’s an advocate for change both on and off the track.

“My goal is to help people learn how to have conversations about social justice. I believe that running is the perfect forum to have these conversations because it’s a global pursuit and a way to connect across cultural lines,” Green says. “I’ve shared my own experiences as a black woman through my writing, and now my focus is to share the stories of others.”

Green has been featured in Runner’s World for her advocacy work. She is also a contributing writer for RUNGRL and Fleet Feet. Follow along on her Instagram while she trains, competes, and inspires.

Members of Girl Trek smile for a photo in the woods


GirlTrek was born in 2010 and has become the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the health of Black women. This year, they reached a milestone of 1.5 million members. Founders Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon created a space for Black women to prioritize their health, inspire others and make a difference in their community through walking.

“GirlTrek is committed to helping Black women lead happy, healthier lives. This is radical work for which there is no blueprint or instructional manual. Self-care is a solution, but so is working to improve the conditions that contribute to stress which leads to disease which kills more and more Black women everyday,” explains Jewel Bush, GirlTrek’s Chief of External Affairs. “We want to improve the life expectancy of Black women by 10 years in 10 years.”

Follow GirlTrek on Instagram to see health and fitness tips, Black history highlights and Black female trailblazers.

Latoya Snell runs in front of the water.

Latoya Shauntay Snell

With many ultra marathon finishes under her belt, Latoya Shauntay Snell has made a name for herself in the ultra trail running community. But it’s her refreshing candor that draws users to her Instagram blog. Snell openly and honestly takes readers through her training rituals, from cross training in the pool to weight lifting on the streets of New York City. She’s currently training for the Javelina Jundred 100k, the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon.

Snell is open about the mental health struggles she faces as an athlete in the spotlight. She’s also an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the sport - LGTBQ athletes, Black athletes, disabled athletes and everyone in between.

“This sport afforded me opportunities to speak up to my peers and beyond as an adult onset athlete on things that aren't always provided to people in marginalized communities,” Snell explains. “Sometimes these conversations are exceptionally uncomfortable for me and the people who I share this dialogue with in different settings, but it's always worth it to stimulate long term change.”

Not only is Snell an athlete, she’s a talented chef as well. Her podcast, Running Fat Chef (@rfcpod), features athletes and influencers in the health and wellness community. The podcast aims to truly connect with each guest, rather than reiterate their titles and accomplishments.

“At the end of every program, I ask all of my guests to define who they are to themselves without attaching it to the work that they do or the roles that they're attached to in their daily lives. When I realized how difficult that was to answer that question on my own, I felt like it was time to create this podcast,” Snell says.

National Black Marathoners' Association

The National Black Marathoners’ Association is the country’s oldest and largest organization of Black runners. Founded in 2004 by several experienced distance runners, the organization awards college scholarships to Black student athletes. The NBMA also created the National Black Distance Running Hall of Fame to recognize Black runners for their athletic accomplishments and contributions to the sport.

Tony Reed, co-founder and executive director of the NBMA, explains how he became inspired to start the organization. “I was running a marathon in my hometown of St. Louis, and we ran through some pretty rough parts of town. We ran past a group of Black kids, and they all started running alongside me. It dawned on me that, being one of the only Black runners in the race, I was actually a role model for them,” he says.

“I wanted to raise money to send Black children to college, encourage African Americans to pursue a healthy lifestyle through walking and running, and recognize the accomplishments of African American distance runners,” Reed explains.

Reed is currently one of three Black runners who have completed what he calls the “marathon hat trick” - running a marathon in all 50 states, running a marathon in all 7 continents, and running at least 100 marathons. The other two Black runners who have accomplished this feat, Shalisa Davis and Michele Smith-Harden, are also members of the NBMA.

Members of RUN GRL running on the sidewalk


RUNGRL was launched in 2018 to increase representation of Black women in the running industry and to provide resources for Black female runners. The organization offers training tips, health and wellness advice, and community-driven support. Whether you’re new to running or you’re training for your next marathon, you can find everything you need on their website.

“We created a space where we can provide information to help Black women get and stay moving, inspire the masses by telling stories and leading conversations that highlight our unique shared experiences as Black women, and celebrate our wins, collectively,” explains Ashlee Lawson Green, co-founder and CEO of RUNGRL.

Over the past few years, RUNGRL has made an impact in the running community. As the running landscape has evolved, so has the organization. “It’s become important that we not only share and talk about running, but all the many ways Black women can and deserve to be well. This includes addressing barriers to fitness that we experience, such as hair, safety, and size representation,” Green says. The group even created #MyRunningHair, a hub for tips and resources about hair maintenance for Black runners.

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