Launching its “#FreedomToRun” campaign for Juneteenth 2023, the Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, this week released a groundbreaking series of three studies on racial representation in running participation and industry employment. Produced in partnership with Bentley University, these in-depth analyses provide a much-needed, first-of-its-kind research to establish a baseline measure for progress towards racial justice. 

“Achieving racial justice is a societal imperative, and running – as an industry and sport – must be part of that transformation,” Kiera Smalls, RIDC’s executive director (in photo at top of this article), tells Running Insight. “From the lack of racial diversity within running organizations to the cost and safety concerns of Black runners in particular, there are clear barriers to participation and inclusion that continue to be unaddressed that serve as a starting point from where we are to where we need to be.” 

The three research studies – “The Future of Running: Connecting with the Next Generation of Racially Diverse Runners,” “Racial Diversity and the Business of Running: Mapping a Path to Equitable Employment, Leadership, and Ownership,” and “Racial Diversity in Trail Running: Understanding the Underrepresented Experience” — include the following findings, which highlight core issues to be addressed:

●       14 percent of the U.S. population is Black/African American. In the running industry, 11 percent of employees are Black/African American, and a mere one percent hold senior management leadership positions.

●       Almost 80 percent of senior executives leading DEI initiatives are white, while only 15 percent are Black/African American.

●       70 percent of running organizations have DEI goals, but 59 percent don’t track progress.

●       Approximately 34 percent of runners (16 million people) are people of color, according to data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA)

●       The U.S. population is becoming increasingly more racially diverse, and the US Census projects that people of color will be the majority by 2045 at 51 percent.

●       Qualitatively, runners of color don’t feel valued as consumers or athletes, from unmet product needs to unaddressed – and endemic ­–­ safety concerns.

RIDC executive director Kiera Smalls, Photo by Rook Productions Media : Pete Santamaria

“The RIDC is mobilizing the running industry to actively practice racial equity, so that our people and the businesses that serve us can thrive,” Smalls adds. “Ultimately, we need everyone committed to systemic change to understand the need for racial justice and then work to ensure equitable representation across participation, employment, leadership and ownership. The future of running is more racially diverse, so we have to build for that reality today.”

The RIDC reports include the following recommendations and questions:

●       Running organizations – including retailers, product manufacturers, event organizers and service agencies – must continually (re)set and assess their commitment to racial justice and DEI. What action plans are being created to achieve these goals? What are the measures of success, and how will progress be tracked? What does personal accountability look like at every stage of company practices? What current systems continue a cycle of oppression?

●       How would the running industry positively change if racial and ethnic representation in running participation mirrored BIPOC representation in the U.S.?

●       Partnerships and solidarity are essential in this work. RIDC supports running organizations across the entire industry. How can we support you?

Smalls and her team have been previewing their research findings over the last six months with industry partners in race management, events, retail and brands, all of whom have provided feedback and, more importantly, begun to (re)assess their internal policies and practices. 

“Research plays a critical role in helping the industry understand systemic racial barriers across the business and the sport, as well as the human experience arising from those barriers,” explains Erin Flynn, a professor at Bentley University who spearheaded the studies. “Our studies provide crucial insights that will help reconstruct the industry to reflect the diverse racial identities and rich cultural values of our nation’s population, thus transforming running into a business and sport that is truly welcoming to all.”

The studies were funded by Altra, Brooks, New Balance, On, Patagonia, Salomon, Saucony, Smartwool, and Strava.

For more on RIDC’s research findings and recommendations, read the full reports and the accompanying factsheets, which are available online or upon request at

The RIDC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that unites the running industry by providing resources, measuring progress, and holding the industry accountable to equitable employment, leadership, and ownership positions and improving the inclusion, visibility, and access for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Visit to learn more.