Known as Running Fat Chef online, athlete, photographer and food blogger Latoya Shauntay Snell started running in October 2013 with black girls run – an organization that encourages black women to adopt an active lifestyle by organizing group runs in a number of communities across the United States. In an email interview with POPSUGAR, Snell said she felt “welcomed” and “embraced” and “called a runner” while learning the basics of running with the organization. “Each meeting we were reminded that we all had different fitness levels and no matter the pace, we knew we weren’t going to be left behind – each member met me where I left off. was on my fitness journey,” she says.
Snell started running after his doctor advised him to improve his overall health. At the time, according to his siteshe had been diagnosed with spinal degeneration, sciatica, herniated discs and a declining immune system.
After a year of racing, Snell entered her first race in 2014. Since then she has completed over 200 races and running events while encouraging others to get active on their social media accounts. In his nine years of running, Snell has noticed that diversity within the running community is “not always accurately represented in the media.”
By sharing my personal experiences, I hope others know they are not alone and that their stories and athletic achievements matter.
In a bid to spark an “overdue conversation in the fitness community” about the need for diverse media representation, Snell has teamed up with the sportswear retailer Gymshark for his United we sweat countryside. the countryside spotlights the voices of athletes from diverse backgrounds and abilities with the aim of encouraging people – especially those hesitant to embark on an active lifestyle – to tap into their local fitness communities.
“I liked the idea of being part of [Gymshark‘s campaign] because we could combine our existing audiences to have a big conversation about empowering everyone through our athletic endeavors,” Snell says. “We don’t have to look the same or sound the same or do the same activities to uplift each other. . . . By sharing my personal experiences, I hope others know they are not alone and that their stories and sporting achievements matter.”
The athlete says that while she sees a diverse set of runners at road running events held in big cities, this is not the case at road running events in smaller cities and during of trail events. “[T]That’s when I saw fewer plus-size athletes, Blacks, Latinx and other racial representations on the course,” Snell says. sometimes visibly the only person who looks like you at an event.”
Snell says running events over the past decade have failed seriously to accurately represent the diversity within the running community and to educate people from marginalized communities about running safety. (According to Road Runner’s Club of Americarunner safety education includes tips on how runners can be alert and visible and avoid harassment while running.)
People from marginalized groups who go running can be mistakenly viewed as criminals. Last year, CNN amplified the experiences of black runners by taking extra precautions to deter racially motivated harassment and violence.
“[W]We need more people willing to do the work beyond the times when it’s not trending,” Snell says. “It is not enough to invite marginalized communities, whether racial, religious, physical or size. A clear and cohesive plan of action with a diverse set of people working and holding those in power accountable to bring about these changes is needed.”
Latoya Shauntay Snell’s tips for increasing diversity in running
“The fitness community as a whole could improve diversity and representation by checking their personal biases, taking the time to interact with communities outside of their own experiences, and holding themselves accountable to be part of the change consistently. “, says Snell. “As athletes, we understand the importance of endurance work in the direction of fitness. If we can apply this similar method in our diversity and inclusion efforts, we can make these changes consistently. over time.”
For those who are hesitant to get active, Snell offers this advice, based on his own fitness journey: be passionate, take time to rest, show “grace” when things go wrong, and take some space. “Taking up space isn’t something you need other people’s permission to do. It’s the conscious act of showing up every day and setting personal goals,” she says.
Snell concludes, “The journey to find normality in this act won’t happen overnight. It requires you to give yourself permission to make mistakes, take risks, invest in your own success, and stand out. . . . An athlete doesn’t have a specific look – he looks like your reflection.”
Image sources: Courtesy of Gymshark / W. Eric Snell of E. Snell Design and Courtesy of Gymshark / Latoya Shauntay Snell