Natasha Thompson Founder of BGR-UK

Black Girls do Run UK founded by Natasha Thompson in 2019 set out to create a safe space to encourage and motivate women of color to stay fit. As Natasha noticed there wasn’t a space in the UK that focused on the diverse side of running. Essentially the same concerns we see in our running communities across the US. This month’s international discussion takes us to the UK as Natasha Thompson chats with us about creating Black Girls Run UK.

MSM: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us here at Mid Strike Magazine. You launched Black Girls Run UK back in 2019 so this group is still fairly brand new. What went into launching BGR-UK. 

Natasha: Black Girls do Run UK started out as an instagram page. The plan back in April 2019 was to show images of regular black females running to inspire and motivate others to run by charting the runs of myself and friends Linda and Sacha who I regularly run with.   

MSM: We are a big believer in representation in running. Especially in those that are new to running. We find that most people of color automatically assume everyone is fast not realizing that average people simply like to run to stay fit. Do you feel there wasn’t enough representation amongst black women in the UK running community?

Natasha: We have the conversation about the perception of being fast, professional and real runners all the time. My usual response is ‘I am many things, fast is not one of them, in fact I am what would be considered a slow runner, but I am a runner nonetheless. What I am very good at is consistency’. There is not enough of represenation of regular black women who run and we are trying to change that.

MSM: Prior to BGR-UK what were your thoughts about the run community in the UK. During races, were there times where you felt solo where there wasn’t necessarily a team or strong support group to lean on?

Natasha: Prior to running with Linda and Sacha racing was indeed a lonely experience. I could often count on two hands the amount of other black females there were in attendance. My races over the last couple of years running with others have been amazing, they have been joyous races.  

MSM: I read that you came across BGR in the States before launching BGR in the UK. What was your experience like when you came across BGR in the US for the first time?

Natasha: I came across BGR USA on Facebook many years ago and I thought it was just so special and how lucky black females were to have such an organization. They were my inspiration to create Black Girls Do Run UK. 

MSM: You launched BGR-UK back in 2019 which I’m sure the entire year of 2019 the group began to pick up steam but as we all know 2020 came in with a vengeance unlike any other and stopped almost everything dead in its tracks. Do you feel this has impacted the growth of BGR-UK. 

Natasha: 2020 has been an unbelievable year of growth and progress for us. Races have been cancelled and postponed but this made running more important than ever before as the gyms closed, many more people headed outdoors. The unfortunate and unlawful killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter marches also had an impact on us as it did everyone as more and more companies are looking at how they can be more diverse.  

MSM: Before BGR-UK you’ve always been a runner take us through some of your run stats. How long have you been running?

Natasha: I have been running for 21 years and have competed in 2 marathons, 1 x relay marathon, 1, 16 mile race, 7 half marathons , 2 10 mile races, 14 10ks and 11 5k races.

MSM: What are some of your favorite places to run in The UK? For travelers what routes would you recommend for those that are visiting?

Natasha: Anyone visiting London should check out the following places for a run: Richmond Park, Victoria Park, Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath and any route along the River Thames and Grand Union and Regent Canal.   

MSM: Any places/routes you like to run where you gain a metal reset or routes where you can relax, also whats the run culture like in your area. Do you find the run scene to be diverse?

Natasha: Any route in nature resets me mentally. I try to include some green space in all my routes. I also live in a diverse part of London so the run scene is a little diverse and of course we all know each other.

MSM: What races outside the UK are you looking forward to doing once Covid eventually subsides and hopefully some form of normalcy returns? Any marathon majors on your radar?

Natasha: No marathon majors on my radar, I ran the Paris Marathon in 2004. Three of us were training for the Manchester Marathon in April but it was postponed to October and now to April 2021, training for that race resumed today.  I would love to do half marathons in Amsterdam, Stockholm and Hamburg.   

MSM: Obviously many runners outside the UK look to London just for the London marathon. What is the race scene like in the UK? Are there many road races in the country? What are some of the popular ones folks gravitate towards other than the London Marathon.

Natasha: I ran the London Marathon in 2001, great race but so difficult to gain entry, most people end up gaining a charity place.  Other popular races are The Great North Run (largest half marathon in the world), Manchester Marathon, The Royal Parks Half Marathon, The Big Half and the Vitality 10K are the ones that spring to mind.  

MSM: How has it been staying in contact with your fellow BGR since Covid? Have you continued to push each other with your training and fitness journeys?

Natahsa: Pushing each other is a big part of what we do collectively as a group.  We have a Whatsapp group where we post our runs and encourage and cheer each other on.

MSM: For our black women that are runners and want to get a run in with the BGR-UK group where/when & how can they meet up?

Natasha: Our runners are all over London, A few of us that live near to each other meet up and run 2 – 3 times a week.  We organize a monthly run in different parts of London for us to get together and run.  Our next run is Victoria Park in East London on Sunday 27th September 2020. 

MSM: From all of us here at MSM, keep up the great work and continue to be a beacon of change in your community.

Natasha: Thank you I love that “A beacon of change”.

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