It’s an abnormally hot spring morning in Los Angeles. I glance down and note my active heart rate is where I want it to be. Legs loosening, blood pumping as I reach mile two of an easy pace eight mile run. Tears begin to well up in my eyes. With every strike I feel them trickle down my cheek to my chin, where the tears meet my sweat. This run I know all too well. My therapy run. Today my session has another layer of familiarity, the subject? Another unarmed Black man killed by a police officer. Here we go again.
By mile three I am filled with rage. I forgo the easy run my coach had planned, this recovery pace just ain’t cutting it! Instead, turning it up a few notches, I drift close to my 5k race pace. I finish out the mile and an intermittent moment of relief comes over me.
Mile four my conscience returns, the black and white LAPD vehicle casting a shadow as it rolls past. Do you know what they called these squad cars when I was growing up? “Black and Normals”. Add that to the long list of dehumanizing thoughts some officers have about POC. Every time the police drive past the world around me becomes hushed, my heart sinks, the temples of my head begin pulsating and my lips become hot. I can never let my body betray me for fear that my distress be misinterpreted as guilt. So, I keep running and give them the peace sign. How ironic is that? My performance comes from years of navigating my country while being Black. An interpretation of hands up, don’t shoot.
Runners aren’t immune to suspicions. Mile five and my mind is full of Ahmaud Arbery, cornered and lynched by his racist neighbors. His story closer to home than usual. I evoke his name and run onwards, immortalizing his last strides. Mile six has me in tears again only this time I am overwhelmed with bliss and gratitude for being able to run one more day, to breathe, to feel the combination of the sun beaming on my skin and a cool breeze. I am learning the art of patience and recovery. These easy mile runs take their toll mentally and emotionally. You have to sit with your thoughts. The tai chi of running.
I have exhausted my racing mind through mile seven. In this moment I feel liberated. Running down my familiar street, towards the safety of my home, I complete mile eight.
It’s an abnormally hot spring morning in Los Angeles. I glance down and note my heart rate slowing as I save my run. My legs stretching, my sweat glistening, my head clear.
I survived running while Black and I’m willing to risk it all again tomorrow.
Reyeoul Lakeshore. Los Angeles, June 2020
We have thought long and hard about what concrete things we should do in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. First and foremost I wanted to hear from a fellow runner who has the lived experience of Running While Black. I cried when I first read Rio's piece.
We met Rio via his excellent instagram account - sonsofthe.sun