The business bit is towards the end of this post; however, you need to read it all to get the benefit.
I was at the National Running Show in the NEC over the weekend of 22nd – 23rd January. I loved visiting the stands, meeting up with old friends, making new ones, discovering new products and new challenges. I never expected I would sign up for the Henry VIII’s Wives Virtual Challenge Series, but I have, starting with the Catherine of Aragon’s 99 miles of Dismissal.
One stand that challenged me in a way I did not expect was run by people from the Emancipated Running Crew. I discovered that black people do not feel welcome in my world of running. I was aware that I do not see many people of colour on the trails but had not given it a lot of thought. I know that black people run, I have run the Comrades Marathon several times and therefore been in an event with thousands of black and Asia runners, plus the photograph above is the wallpaper on the screen of my PC monitor.
I believed trail running to be an inclusive sport just like I thought parkrun was inclusive. Parkrun is inclusive if you are white, if you are not there are invisible barriers and the people taking part in parkrun do not effectively represent the community in which they are based. The same can be said of trail running. This is from the Black Trail Runners website: “Running in the outdoors should be for everyone, but although trail running culture imagines itself to be inclusive, it is effectively for the few. Black runners are under-represented in the culture of trail running, and lack a voice in its organisation and visibility in its media. Invisible barriers to access mean that Black people miss out on enjoying our outdoor spaces …”
And in a letter sent to race organisers in August 2020 they said: “Since our launch last month, the response from runners has shown us that our group is meeting a need. Black runners have welcomed the opportunity to join with others who look like them and value their experiences and views. At the same time, the comments of detractors have clearly demonstrated to us that trail running is far from being the inclusive sport many claim it to be. The fact that many people don’t see the problem, is part of the problem, invalidating our lived experiences and those of other Black runners.”
Wow, mea culpa I am part of the problem, I didn’t see the problem. I love trail running and the outdoors and want it to be accessible to everyone. I do not know what the solution is; however, I do know that the start to solving problems, comes from recognising there is a problem, reflecting on it and talking about it.
Reflecting further I thought about the show being in Birmingham, yet almost all the visitors were white, as were the exhibitors with the exception of Black Girls Do Run, Emancipated Running Crew and TYNA, a company that produces sports clothing inspired by traditional ethnic patterns from around the world. Three out of over two hundred exhibitors. I reflected about all the independent shops I sold to and tried to sell to when I was an agent and distributor for sports and outdoor goods, all the owners were white.
Now here is the business bit, if some people don’t feel welcome in your business environment you are missing out on a lot of potential customers. You may think you are being inclusive, but do people of all ethnicities, abilities, disabilities and social backgrounds feel welcome and comfortable in the environment you create. Remember the words from Black Trail Runners “… are under-represented in the culture of trail running, and lack a voice in its organisation and visibility in its media. Invisible barriers to access mean that Black people miss out on enjoying our outdoor spaces …”
Are people missing out on enjoying the benefits of your products or services and are you missing out on the benefits of having them as customers?
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