Healthy Gains For Black Runners

By Off the BASN Sports Wire
Updated: April 26, 2005

DALLAS, TX.—Dallas CPA Tony Reed has run 65 marathons and, in the process, outrun diabetes. When he competes in Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon, he’ll be running with a message: African-Americans are at high risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, and regular exercise, such as running, can help cut those risks.

As founder and president of the National Black Marathoners’ Association, Reed is zigzagging the nation to underscore numbers that he thinks are too often overlooked. African-Americans have one of the highest rates of hypertension in the world. In the United States, they have the greatest risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke of any ethnic group. Now, better than 40 percent of African-American adults have cardiovascular disease, and more than 100,000 will die of heart attacks or strokes each year.

Reed knows the statistics on diabetes even more intimately. As a child, he was diagnosed with a pre-diabetic condition and told he’d be taking insulin by the time he was 20. To keep it at bay, he ran. Now, still insulin-free, he competes to let people know that nearly 12 percent of African-Americans have diabetes and many more are at high risk of it, including many children.

These are numbers, he reminds black Americans, that they don’t have to accept.

We applaud the black marathoners’ association for taking on these health risks in an inspiring and engaging manner. They are challenging African-Americans to take their health into their own hands, to forgo being a spectator to others’ athletic pursuits and to become athletes themselves. That’s terrific advice for everyone.

The marathoners understand that fitness – and, conversely, lack of fitness – begin in childhood, and that once begun, either habit is hard to break. The association is promoting running among youth by sponsoring college scholarships for distance runners and by encouraging urban schools to do more to encourage fitness.

The group also understands that when it comes to health habits, children are better led than pushed. They’re hoping to lure children to running by encouraging cities to include more children’s events in marathon festivities and to promote those programs at inner-city schools.

The Flying Pig now features a health and activity clinic for children and the Kahn’s Flying Piglet Fun Run that has activities for infants, toddlers and older children. A 5K run is especially geared to teenagers and older children.

Inclusiveness and visibility are keys to attracting minorities to sports. In recent years, such sports as golf and tennis have widened their participant base and their audience by having successful and widely known minority athletes. The black marathoners hope to raise their own visibility by wearing the same color of jerseys during races, and they hope more marathon courses will include African-American neighborhoods.

Hook young people into running, they believe, and the health benefits will last a lifetime.