Racism Has No Place in Races

Dear Peter Ciaccia, President of NYRR and Race Director of TCS NYC Marathon and Jim Marino, Race Director of Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon:

I’m writing to you to let you know about two incidents with racist overtones that occurred at the TCS NYC Marathon and the Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon.

The first incident was something I heard on NPR from a reporter who spoke about a personal friend who ran the NYC Marathon. Although the reporter never explicitly stated which ethnicity his friend was, it was strongly implied that the runner was a Person of Color. While running out on the course, he reached out to grab a cup of water from a volunteer. That volunteer pulled back the cup and jeered at the runner to go back to his country.

The second incident happened to my friend at the Philadelphia Marathon. He had just finished running the marathon. He was standing in the finish line staging area waiting with other people for friends to arrive. He was hardly alone in doing this as there were other runners who were doing the exact same thing.  Yet a volunteer singled him out to move or she would call the police. She even tried to push him out by the chest. She ignored other runners, who were White, and instead focused on him, who was the sole brown-skinned person in that particular crowd.

We could write off these incidents as isolated events that don’t reflect upon the values of the wider running community, and NYRR, and Philadelphia’s Office of the City Representative, the organizations that manage these marathons. However, given the current climate and the rise of blatant, overt racism, I fear that people are feeling emboldened to act upon their prejudice and bigotry. These acts are symptoms of the underlying and very real problem of racism that we have in the United States.

I know that those volunteers’ behaviors do not represent the views and values of NYRR and the Philadelphia’s Office of the City Representative. I know that you find their actions as abhorrent as I do. As the leaders of your organizations, I urge you to speak out against racism happening at your events. You set the tone and culture of your organizations and events. Let your staff and volunteers know that racism will not be tolerated.  While little can be done about undoing these past events, by speaking out you can prevent future acts of violence, intolerance, and racism against runners, particularly when they are vulnerable.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to seeing statements from the NYRR and Philadelphia’s Office of the City Representative speaking out against racist attacks on our runners and taking actions to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all people.

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27 thoughts on “Racism Has No Place in Races

  1. Lil. I’m touched that you took action on this. You have a big heart and I’m feeling overwhelmed typing this out right now. Lots of love your way. Thank you.
    #steamtownbuddies4life #pptc

    • After I said that you should tell the race director, I realized nothing that preventing ME from doing that. Overt racism happens because people think it’s okay to do it. I personally play a role in setting the cultural acceptance of racism. By saying nothing, I’m passively okaying that behavior. I have to act and I have a platform where I can act.

    • I was just sick that a volunteer would do that. Regardless of the resident status of the runner, no runner should have water taken away from them at a race. Even if the runner weren’t a resident of the US, the NYC Marathon attracts huge numbers of runners from other countries. We do not treat guests and visitors this way. We don’t treat anyone this way PERIOD.

  2. Thank you for writing this! And also, a big whatever to the volunteer who made that racist/xenophobic remark during the NYC Marathon. Like, hello? Half the people in that race are from other countries. It’s no place for a white supremacist.

    • Thanks for your support, Marie. As upsetting as these individual incidents are, I’m far more worried about whether this will be a growing trend. We need to remember that these behaviors are not normal.

  3. How disappointing is this? I think of running as such an all inclusive sport. I hope changes are made. I hope changes are made not just at these events but nationwide in everything. We have come too far and we have so much father to go.

  4. Ugh those incidents are both awful, but I’m proud of you for speaking out about them. You would hope the running community would be inclusive of everyone, but I guess you also get some bad eggs. What we need is a clear message that that kind of behaviour isn’t tolerated. I hope you get a response!

  5. Ugh. Thank you for writing this – did you get in touch with the race directors? Regardless of whether it was the NYC Marathon, Philly, or a 300-person marathon in a small town, that sort of behavior from volunteers is completely unacceptable!

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  8. Very good article. I grew up around very violent racists in Liverpool, UK. Having lived in several countries I would say it is the most racist place on earth. Times have changed as now people are aware it is an offence to “hate” but unfortunately you cannot bring out laws on what people are thinking and in reality people will always have it on their mind. When someone gets angry the first thing they do is find something (negative to them) about the appearance of the person they are angry with, be it overweight, black, ginger hair, trans, etc etc and they will then abuse that person on the way they look. I have witnessed highly educated people being very racist- one a solicitor. So it is definitely not a case of lack of education.

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