Emancipated Run Crew

Removing barriers for people of colour

Running should be a sport with very little barriers to entry - just grab your shoes and head out the door, right? While this may be true for the primarily white, middle to upper-class part of the population, it is not necessarily the case for those who fall outside of that category. This is what Jules, co-founder of the Emancipated Run Crew, felt when she began running more than 20 years ago. She, her sister Denise, and their friend Trojan, often felt like they were the only people of colour at running events in London.

“ (We) found that we were going to races and not seeing very many people who looked like us. I'd often run after work and see running clubs or crews running through London and I could count on one hand the number of black or brown people that I would see. ”

Jules, Co-Founder, Emancipated Run Crew

This, she says, was in stark contrast to what you saw on television. If you watched the Olympics, the World Championships, or stood along the sidelines of any major marathon, it was black and brown people who were setting world records and winning gold medals. There was a perception that black people loved running, but that wasn’t translating over into grassroots running. It was at that moment that she, Dee, and Trojan decided they needed to create a community where people of colour could run and feel represented, not “othered”.

The nucleus of the group was formed in 2014 when Trojan set up a WhatsApp group, but it wasn’t until 2019 that the name Emancipated Run Crew was born, coming from the sense they had of reclaiming their right to be in spaces like Park Run and other organised race events. This name seemed to awaken something in their community, and drove them forward with a renewed purpose that they were going to improve the running culture in London, and maybe even further.

“ It became our mantra to run free, you know, run at your own pace at your own race. You're free to be whoever you are, you know, and we're not here to judge. "

Jules, Co-Founder, Emancipated Run Crew

While Jules has been running for more than two decades, ERC run leader Lionel’s running journey started just a few years ago. He began running to shake off the stress weighing down on him from his personal and professional life. A longtime friend of Jules and Dee, he’d watched them running, but thought that they were the exception to the rule.

“The only two black women that I knew that ran were Jules and Dee, and it was like, a bit of a quirk.”

Far from being a stranger of doing things that, as Lionel says, typically only white people do, he decided to give running a try. While it was rough at the beginning, he quickly fell in love with the feeling of just running free.

“ I joined the ERC, and I felt a community in terms of,’ oh, it wasn't just Jules and Dee’. There are other black women that run as well as black men, so these aren't just anomalies. These are, you know, people that I know, people that I love, and there's more of them. ”

Lionel, Co-Founder, Emancipated Run Crew

In ERC, they champion everyone - whether you’re just starting your running journey or chasing personal bests. You are a runner, no matter how far or how fast you are going. Together, as a community, they encourage each other, lift each other up, and give each other advice.

Jules, Lionel, and the rest of the ERC leaders and runners are championing diversity in grassroots running. They have had the experience of being ‘othered’ at running events, and it has encouraged them to further push for diversity in the wider running community. Their goal is to change the running culture in London and around the world, so that in another generation or two, it will no longer be an anomaly to see people of colour out running and at races. It will just be normal.

“ We've been to park runs in the past where they’re not used to seeing that number of black people in one space running and it's like ‘We run too’,” Jules explains. “Those kinds of experiences where you genuinely feel othered in this space aren't great… (they continue to) reinforce the need for that community and your sense of belonging despite being ‘othered’ by the wider community. ”


Co-Founder, Emancipated Run Crew

Today, the ERC has groups across the UK and around the world. They are partnered with many of the big running events in London, helping the organizers to increase diversity in the London running and racing scene and to remove barriers to entry in order to achieve that. Jules, Lionel, and the rest of the ERC team are working towards a future that sees a London marathon as diverse as the city in which it is run.

To join the ERC, find “Emancipated Run Crew” on Heylo and join the crew. You can also follow the crew on their Instagram.