A month ago, I started eating a plant-based diet (except for the one day that I ate ham and pineapple pizza). I got inspired by a fellow dope black mama and her posts on social media. I reached out to her to find out her secret because she really seemed to be enjoying the vegan life. I had tried it before and wasn’t nearly as enthused. Surprisingly, she told me to get clear on “my why” – the motivating reason behind changing my eating habits. Her advice made all the difference. After thirty days, not only am I thoroughly enjoying my plant-based eating journey, but I am fully committed to eating an almost vegan diet (“almost” because I ain’t giving up honey or sugar). I’m sure you’re wondering what the hell this has to do with running! Well, let me tell you… I’ve often gotten similar inquiries about running. People are always asking me the secret to enjoying running, and I usually give them some heeby- jeeby about “flexing mind over matter” or “being addicted to getting better” while I’m thinking in the back of my mind, “If you’ve got to ask me this, it just ain’t yo’ thang.” When truth is, although I’ve never explicitly stated it, I run and enjoy running because I’ve always been clear on my why. Similarly, I run my hood and I enjoy running my hood because I know my why and here are the five underlying reasons.
1. I get to know my hood.
Running my hood helps me learn about it. While out running, I observe the well-manicured yards and the unkempt vacant lots. I know my neighbors that decorate their porches with flowers and those that have pets. I pass senior-citizen homes, “the projects”, schools, businesses, playgrounds, and community gardens. I also pass food kitchens, abandoned buildings, condemned homes, and graffitied walls. I know the blocks that are quiet, the blocks that stay lit, and the blocks that are hot. I get to know my hood – the good parts and the not-so good parts – and every day I learn to love and to appreciate everything that it has to offer a little bit more.
2. My hood celebrates me.
If you’ve ever been in the hood with short shorts or leggings on, you know the catcalling is real! Well, baby, running shorts and running tights ain’t no different! When I was younger, I was deeply offended and even embarrassed by catcalling. As a 37-year old woman, who has learned to appreciate my black hood culture, I reframe it. Catcalling is how the hood men and boys, who don’t know another way, applaud me for loving myself. Running is loving myself, and loving myself is dope and SEXY AS FUCK! I also hear old lady’s on their porches shouting, “Go head girl” and whispers from little girls, “That’s Phoenix’s mom.” Men, women, and children, in their own special way, offer me words of encouragement and celebration and it feels good!
3. I am setting an example.
Denzel Washington said, “You never know how or when you’ll have an impact, or how important your example can be to someone else.” Running to me means freedom; freedom from mental illness, self-hatred, and limiting beliefs. I grew up in the hood, and running was the start to me believing that I can do anything and is still a reminder. Every time I run I hope that someone sees me running and is inspired to lace up and find the path to freedom.
4. I get it from my Daddy.
My Daddy took me running for the first time when I was 11 years old. We ran through the streets of Detroit’s west side, our hood. My daddy ran through our hood every day. Now, when I run my hood, I do it with pride. I am proud to be my daddy’s daughter and to continue his legacy.
5. The hood made me.
By most standards, I am successful. I’m a highly accomplished six-figure earner with a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and THE HOOD MADE ME. The hood equipped me with grit and scrappiness, and I’m grateful. I live in my hood and I run my hood because I want to give back to it what it gave to me…hope.