USA Today Bemoans Anti-Indigenous Nature Of Distance Running

October 11th, 2021 1:59 PM

Progressive guilt and racial grievance mongering were the order of the day for Monday in New England. And, oh, yes, the Boston Marathon took place there, too. USA Today’s left-wing sports columnist Nancy Armour and the Boston Athletic Association asserted the sport of distance running is far too white and has erased indigenous people for far too long.

Armour’s race piece began with a focus on Verna Volker, a Navajo distance runner who’s frustrated that running magazines have featured blonde women, instead of indigenous women like herself. They don’t have stories like hers either. Volker rarely sees Native runners at the races, so that must surely imply racism is in play.

In 2018, Volker founded Native Women Running, a website seeking to amplify, support and encourage Indigenous runners. She’s got 26,000 followers, and just got featured in USA Today. The running shoe producer Hoka made Volker one of its global ambassadors.

The Boston Athletic Association apologized to Native people (“We extend our sincere apologies to all Indigenous people who have felt unheard or feared the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day would be erased. We are sorry.”), and today it cited the contributions of Indigenous people to the running community. The association also acknowledged that part of the Boston Marathon course traverses traditional indigenous land.

That’s a lot of positive press, but there’s still not enough attention given to Native runners. All of which prompted Armour to let the race charges fly:

The brazen killing last year of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was chased down by three white men and shot to death while out for a mid-day run, prompted a reckoning in the recreational running community over its lack of diversity.

While much of the focus has been on how to make Black runners feel safer and more included, the same barriers have long existed for Indigenous runners.

The price of good running shoes and race entry fees are challenges to Native runners, and so is just traveling to races. Running stores and magazines are too white, in Armour’s opinion.

Guarina Lopez, another indigenous runner, wrote an essay, “You cannot erase us: Letter from an Indigenous runner,” for Trail Runner magazine this summer asking: “It’s, 'How do I physically get to the starting line? How do I train for this?’”

Once at a race, do Native runners feel welcomed? “Or will they feel ignored or unseen?"  Armour's race grievance continued.

None of this prevented Billy Mills, aka Tamakoce Te'Hila by his Oglala Lakota tribe, from winning the gold medal in the 10,000 meter run in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. His feat is considered one of the greatest Olympic upsets. Racial discrimination did not stop Natives Ellison Brown from winning the Boston Marathon in 1936 and 1939, or Tom Longboat from winning in 1907. Only now are Natives facing such overwhelming odds – according to Armour.

Since the color of the skin in athletic competitions is so crucial, Armour made a point of explaining how empowered Lopez was to enter a race with other competitors of color. “The impact was empowering,” Lopez said.

These stories of Indigenous athletes being in the minority are “particularly disheartening because Native Americans were this country’s first runners, with running serving as both a means of transportation and expression of spirituality,” Armour whined.

Supporting Armour’s race charges was Jordan Marie Daniel, a professional runner and founder of Rising Hearts, an indigenous-led grassroots group dedicated to racial, social, climate and economic justice.

“Indigenous people are treated as relics of the past, who don’t exist from 1900. We still get it today,” Daniel moaned. “It just comes down to ignorance, racism and a lack of education. It’s why we’re really pushing the narrative within the running community of having these conversations. There is history there. It’s living in that soil.”  

By the way, just two percent of Americans are indigenous. Yet it appeared that Armour and Daniel believe distance running should be more like football with a disproportionate number of minority participants.