Hustle Mindset

How Erika Kemp Became A Running Role Model


Professional runner Erika Kemp’s goal at this year’s Boston Marathon was simple: to finish running 26.2 miles and “be OK.” But when she crossed the finish line, the 28-year-old broke the record as the fastest debut marathon for a Black American female runner, topping an exclusive list to break the three-hour barrier.

“You can finish it. It’s going to get really hard and feel really long but think of all the work you put in prior,” Kemp remembers telling herself throughout the race.

The New Jersey native began running at 14 when her soccer coach, who was also the track coach, begged her to try long-distance running, she recalled. She hated it at first, but found success fairly quickly and then fell in love with the sport. It opened several unexpected doors for her — including the opportunity to travel in college.

Tackling a marathon was Kemp’s next big challenge, a natural progression after she had excelled at multiple shorter races, including several half marathons. A full marathon, however, was “a completely different beast” for her.

Elite long-distance running in the U.S. historically has been dominated by white runners, in no small part due to systemic racism and socioeconomic barriers to Black runners competing. Black Americans, I’m told by some of Kemp’s peers, often face the assumption that they are more likely to excel at shorter distances. But Kemp is changing that, and her influence is already palpable.

“We saw the elite runners coming up and said, ‘We gotta turn them up! Give them that push!’ but when we saw her, we just lost it,” said Anthony “Rock” Clary, co-founder of We Off the Couch, a Black-led running community in Richmond, Virginia. He was at the Boston Marathon’s Brooks Running cheer station when he saw Kemp at mile 15.

“We are just screaming for her because we know she needs it. In those moments, we are yelling, ‘We see you, sis! Keep going! You got everything you need tucked down on the inside!’” Clary remembers thinking, “If I lose my voice today, I will lose it for something that absolutely matters.”

Clary said that in a sport initially created for white men, seeing a Black woman run down that prestigious course as an elite athlete made an impact on his life — and his family. “My daughters can do this too,” he thought.

“I would not be the person with the megaphone,” Kemp said. “But as I’ve gotten older, I’m not shying away from it either.”

Photo Credit: Justin Britton

“The Boston Marathon is not run through the city of Boston. It’s primarily run through predominantly white neighborhoods. So the people that need to see [her] moving like that often don’t get to see her,” Clary said. “The first thing I did with those pictures was to show my kids and tell them about her historic feat. My daughter talks about her all the time now.”

But Kemp didn’t set out to break the record, less so to become a role model. “I didn’t really realize the impact I was having. Having always done distance running, I was used to being the only one out there with a different skin tone and hair [texture],” Kemp said. “When we were sitting around before meets in high school, and everyone was braiding each other’s hair, I didn’t have any teammates that could do mine. I didn’t know how to do my own hair and I didn’t realize that until I got older.”

Kemp said that the more high-level races she competes in, the more people reach out to her with words of encouragement and to give her props for how far she’s made it. “I don’t really go out there to run thinking people are watching me,” Kemp said. But they are. She’s quickly become a spokesperson for inclusion within the sport and an example for generations to come.

“I am not a natural-born advocate or a loud person,” she said. “I do enjoy speaking but I usually find myself being a bystander. I would not be the person with the megaphone. But as I’ve gotten older, I’m not shying away from it either.” She pointed out that some athletes are natural advocates and how inspired she is by them. And so she’s learning, day by day, to use her platform for good.

And while words and posts are important, Kemp is well aware that her community’s support doesn’t come from that or from how many medals she wins. It’s about simply seeing her in the race.

Kemp became a Brooks Running ambassador earlier this year as a part of her commitment to advocacy; she’s part of Future Run, a brand initiative built to champion youth and help them discover the lifelong benefits of running and its community. Ultimately, she just wants people to realize the incredible impact running can have on their lives. “Without running, I think I’d be a terrible human being, to put it mildly, ” Kemp said. “Running got me through the death of my grandparents, my dad being sick, and a really bad breakup. Running was the thing I could do that was 100% in my control and I knew at the end of it, I would feel better.”

While mental health and happiness are her most salient goals, Kemp definitely wouldn’t turn down some accolades. “I know I have so much more to do from a competition standpoint,” Kemp says. “And I’d love to win something.” And with a record like Kemp’s, a medal can’t be too far out of reach.

Source link


Morehouse Online Faces Growing Pains And Concerns Its A Pipe Dream

Previous article

Skip Bayless Wants Charles Barkley As His Replacement For Shannon Sharpe

Next article


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *