FF: There has been an increased focus on diversity in the running community since the events of 2020. Did it affect you or your channel? Do you think any positive changes have been made since then?
MK: It definitely affected me as I have a more nuanced understanding now of what inclusivity means. I think we have a welcoming community and a welcoming channel, but I did realize there were other things I could do to make it more welcoming. While my heart was in the right place and I was supportive of my running friends, I realized there were things people were going through that I didn't go through. I wanted to speak up for them, if they wanted me to do that, and stand behind them.
While the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was gaining much more attention, there was also a rise in violence against Asian Americans, so there was a lot of stuff happening in the world that permeated through the running community. I started to get more comments on my channel that seemed to be housed in racism or have an unnecessarily level of hostility, but once the uptick in violence against Asian Americans came to light I realized that's why it was happening.
The silver lining was that these events turned away a lot of people who didn't align with the values of my community. As I mentioned before, the community self-policies, so the people that stick around are the people who want to make running more inclusive and who want to understand the barriers that prevent people from being able to run. For me, the biggest barrier was not finding the right pair of shoes, but for others the barriers are much more substantial and feel much more insurmountable. That was something that was eye-opening for a lot of people.
I want everyone to feel like a runner and that they belong. One thing I always try to do now is, on a shakeout run, everyone gets to run at their true shakeout pace. That means no one gets left behind, no one has to run faster than they want to on the shakeout run before their marathon. When I say “all paces welcome,” it means all paces welcome. That’s a little thing I can do, and when there are bigger things I can do to stand up, it's an obligation that I will gladly carry.
In response to the Newton Police incident during the Boston Marathon, I added a fundraiser to my Boston Marathon 2023 video for the Center for Policing Equity. I found out later in the day what had happened through Reny, who had filmed the video and was someone I met in the comments of my channel many years ago. It was really disheartening to know that this event that was so exciting for me, and something I spent years looking forward to, wasn’t as exciting for some people who were treated differently. I put the fundraiser on my channel to highlight the fact that not everyone was being treated equally and fairly on that day. I know that some actions have been taken, which I think is a positive step, but this was a sad reminder of how much work we all have to do to make sure everyone feels like they’re welcome.
Catch Kofuzi at the 2023 Chicago Marathon and follow him on YouTube at @kofuzi.