I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Eileen Bright, runner, teacher, Haitian American, Beauty and the Beach Run™, (BatBR™), enthusiast, and Ambassador for Black Girls Run! (BGR) Central New Jersey. I was really excited to talk to Eileen because she has run every BatBR™ since the inception race. She also told me this had become her yearly signature race. It was the very first race she had ever trained for and run. She was overweight and set her sights on just finishing her first race. She trained using a “Couch to 5k” program and figured if she could start training for 3.1 miles she would be able to keep training and be able to run a couple more miles. She also shared this race was significant for her because it falls around her birthday, and the first one she ran fell on the date of a particularly BIG birthday for her. So race day was also her birthday!! What a great way to celebrate!
Eileen has a personal connection, as a teacher and Haitian American, to the charity presenting the event, Aslan Youth Ministries, who support at risk youth in our local community, as well as supporting the community in Haiti. This year is the first year BatBR™ has a fund raising option for runners. Runners who raise a minimum of $100 receive a free race entry. Eileen pledged to donate more than double that amount through her fundraising efforts. When I asked her about this she said, “It takes a village; it’s a way for me to give back.” She told me that she likes to do races that support a cause and said, “I feel any help Haiti gets it will help them survive and thrive. That spoke to me. I thought instead of spending money on other races let me focus my energy and fundraising on this event.” She especially felt it was important to help at-risk youth in our community, as an educator she has been personally touched by this population and sees the real need for intervention.
As she shared her enthusiasm about the charity and the race itself, it became clear that Eileen and I also shared some of the same reasons for loving this race. “The energy of the women is positive and I really like the course; it is flat,” Eileen noted. Eileen struck me as someone who was filled with positive energy herself and I couldn’t wait to hear more about her connection with the running group, “Black Girls Run!”
I shared with Eileen the first time I learned about the group, when they were on the sidelines cheering for their running mates at my first ever BatBR™ race and their enthusiasm was contagious. I swore they were cheering for me, too! Eileen laughed and told me she was not surprised I felt that way and she told me about the first time she encountered the ladies. They were in a big group all doing the “Wobble.” It’s ok if you don’t know what that is, she told me, and I didn’t know what that was, and found the girls on YouTube doing this fun line dance. Check out their moves here.
Eileen recalled right after her first BatBR™, which she accomplished on her own, “I said a prayer wishing for other women who would run with me. Soon after I saw a table at another race that said Black Girls Run!” and she told me she said to herself, “Hey that’s me, I’m a black girl who runs!” Up until this point she was running with a moms group, but it was slowly dissolving. Her father was ill and her running was sporadic, but finding BGR! gave her the support, camaraderie and fun competition she was looking for in a running group.
BGR! was founded by Toni Carey & Ashley Hicks-Rocha. They started running to lose weight and tried running groups, but found other groups had many advanced runners. They wanted to create a group for beginning runners like themselves. They also were concerned about the health struggles of many black women and they wanted to promote movement and make it fun. Eileen found a home with this group and found herself improving every year. To date, she has run 7 half marathons, three 10 milers and over two dozen other races, including 15ks, 10ks, 5ks and 5 milers.
Eileen is proud of her role as an Ambassador for BGR!, which means she encourages and motivates members. She told me she started as a run coordinator. “I made sure no one got left behind on a run or at a race. In fact one of their mottos is ‘No woman left behind,’ and our other motto is ‘Preserve the sexy.’ You have to stay healthy to preserve the sexy.” BGR! also coordinates social events for their group members.
We are excited to have Eileen Bright and this amazing group of women join us for another fantastic race at the shore. I hope you will join us, too. Don’t forget to hang around the DJ booth and watch the ladies join together to do the “Wobble.” Keep “Preserving the Sexy!” If you want to learn more about Black Girls Run! and get information on joining click here.
Toni Genovese, LCSW, CPT-NASM, CPC
Strong at the Core LLC
Health & Wellness Coaching