local police video Forming a bicycle blockade In front of a group of black supporters at this year’s Boston Marathon, some uncomfortable truths about running in America seem to have resurfaced.
Black runners (and their supporters) are often a segregated sport that can be treated differently than white runners. Runners of color often have a minor presence in the biggest races, especially as the race moves beyond elite African-born competitors.
Erika Kemp, 28, who made her best-ever marathon debut for an American woman in Boston last month, has seen this dynamic up close since she was a very fast girl growing up in South Jersey as a teenager. .
Kemp, who finished Boston in 2:33:57, is one of the rarest athletes in American track and field. Black women born and raised in this country have become stars in long-distance events, not as sprinters. how she got into the sport
Kemp didn’t compete in cross-country racing until he entered college on a North Carolina track scholarship. She hated running in the mud, but that wasn’t the reason she shied away from cross-country during her high school years.
“Nobody looked like me,” she said.
As she evolved into a long-distance runner on the track and became a high school state champion in the 3,200 meters, Kemp got an inside look at what outsiders often see in high school competitions. In general, black kids dominated the field in sprints, even though white runners excelled in sprints and black runners excelled in long distances, whereas long distance races They were mainly white.
It wasn’t until college, when she began competing with international recruits, that Kemp started seeing more black runners in distance events. Sometimes it feels like you’re back in high school when you’re racing on a field full of stars.
“I think we gravitate toward what we know and feel comfortable with,” she said.
In addition to trying to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics by winning races in long-distance events from the 5000m to the marathon, Kemp says he wants more black runners of all ages to pursue long-distance running. I want you to believe me.
She was particularly inspired when a black her age sent her a message saying that he had seen her in the race and had decided to sign up for a local 5km run. Yes, she wants more black kids to run cross-country, but she also wants more black adults to sign up for the race.
Many local runners, including Kemp, who moved to Boston after college, are used to seeing the two groups supporting friends and everyone else at local races. She passed them in the hills of Newton, Massachusetts, and was thrilled to hear the cheers and music and see the confetti.
“They were exactly what I expected,” she said. “They were so hyped.”
As the race progressed, these supporters did something that many ordinary runners, especially those just trying to survive the marathon like many runners in police-distributed videos, had little trouble with – They jumped onto the course and ran to safety a few noisy steps with friends and loved ones. (At some races, including Boston, a buddy jumped in and ran miles with me. I love it.)
The day after the marathon, a spokesman for the Newton Police Department said it received three notices that spectators were “crossing the rope barriers and obstructing the runners.” “
The department did not disclose who complained about the black audience.
“As spectators continued to cross the ropes, the NPD, along with additional officers, quietly used the bicycles for a short period of time to mark the course, keeping both runners and spectators safe.”
When Kemp saw a video of the bike lockdown posted on social media, he wondered how this could have happened.
“One of the biggest reasons people came to Boston was the support of the crowd, and they were a big part of that,” Kemp said of the black supporters. “It’s really disappointing to see them treated like this for literally contributing to the magic of Boston.”
Race organizers, the Boston Athletic Association, met with leaders of two running clubs. Three days after his race and after that meeting, BAA Chief Executive Officer Jack Fleming said the organization was committed to “at the Marathon he will do better to create a welcoming and supportive environment for the BIPOC community.” I need it,” he said. Blacks, Native Americans, and other people of color.
Kemp felt that black promising sprinters, young promising long-distance runners, and perhaps even older and much slower runners who just wanted to complete a 5K, were at the starting line, even on crosses. I look forward to any initiatives that might help make it better. country course.
She said she thinks about it every time she races. The better she performs, the more exposure she gets, and the more people young and old don’t fall victim to the ‘if you can’t see’ thing. ‘ Dynamic as she once did.
“It makes me think again about why I’m racing. The fact that I’m not running purely for myself anymore,” said Kemp, who signed with running apparel company Brooks earlier this year. Told. “I need to stand on the starting line”
Kevin Draper contributed to the report.