Coming from a big sporting family, it felt natural to follow my sister’s lead and join our local running club. I was only 7, but from that moment running has opened doors and connected me to some of the most important people in my life. It has shaped life choices, such as where I studied (in the UK and USA), my career within the global adidas Running team, and the communities I belong to.
Running brings us together, and bonds are formed through our shared time, mutual support, and meaningful contributions to the communities around us.
In 2020, adidas Running’s Diversity Advisory Council was formed to foster equity and belonging in everything we do. This led us to create running purpose projects that are grounded in the fact that through sport we have the power to change lives. And through community we have the power to change the world.
We have six purpose projects underway. All of them were thoughtfully created and beautifully brought to life by adidas Runners (aR) Captains and Coaches’ open-source collaboration. These projects are built from the adidas Runners’ holistic approach of movement, mindset, nutrition, gear, and recovery. In designing the projects, we wanted to form deep connections and sustained impact. This commitment led us to partner with local organizations whenever possible.
Below is a brief description of the projects.
Anti-Racist Talks – Global project
Community-led conversations that promote anti-racism were launched in February 2021, which is Black History Month in the United States. The aim of this project is to increase awareness around the societal effects of racism in Rio de Janeiro, New York, and Berlin. We want to provide opportunities to learn more about how our communities are impacted and use these learnings to create positive change.
The discussions between panellists and the communities focused on key words such as systemic racism, privilege, unconscious bias, allyship, representation, microaggressions, and intersectionality to help us all learn and build on our own understanding of the topic. The aim is to expand the power to change in our communities by becoming true allies.
We included an excerpt from one of these insightful conversations in the short film, The Way We Move. This beautiful film also features a personal interview with Ester, who was the first Black adidas Runners captain in Brazil. She points out that it can be lonely being the first. “I would like to feel more represented,” she said.
Through her role with adidas Runners and the Anti-Racist Talks, Ester is doing what she can to increase representation in leadership positions. As she puts it, “Racism is not something personal. It’s systematic.” Increasing awareness of how systems perpetuate racist practices is an essential step in becoming anti-racist.
Hope in Our Plains – Cape Town, South Africa
This initiative was launched in March of 2021 in Mitchell Plains, a township just outside of Cape Town, South Africa. Here the coach, Ndyebo Mapekula – who goes by Pax – worked with children ages 12-18, in collaboration with a local program, Elite Athletes. Together, they offered training sessions on running technique and related these athletic skills to goal setting – in sport, as well as their personal and academic lives.
We also provided participants with uniforms and equipment, so they got used to beginning races on world standard starting blocks and jumping over hurdles instead of discarded furniture.
Familiarity with athletic equipment allowed the young athletes to focus on their performance. Four of them competed in their school’s national championships and brought home five medals.
Some of the parents in this community were trained to be coaches and are taking on leading this program. For the young athletes involved, the impact of this project will be felt for a long time. As one of the coaches, Micaela Gillian, says, “When I was younger, it took one person to recognise me and see my potential. And that changed my entire life. Being part of this program means I can be that person to one of the athletes.”
For more information about this program and its power to change, see the short documentary on Hope in Our Plains.
The Network Effect – London, United Kingdom
Also launched in March 2021, The Network Effect is led by Ayo Dada in collaboration with a London-based organization, Greenhouse Sports. In this project, coaches receive training to teach running technique and movement. This project aims to support disadvantaged children between 12-16 years old in developing skills and exploring their potential. Ayo describes the mission like this: “We want to leave students with a legacy that movement has the power to not only improve their health but improve the sports that they play.”
The positive effects extend beyond sport, though, as Ayo describes. “I’ve seen some of the young people make some amazing transformation journeys. I’ve seen them be more confident, be more chatty.”
Ayo first became interested in running when he watched the 2012 London Olympics. Watching the athletes share common goals and experiences inspired him to join the London adidas Runners community.
His involvement with adidas Runners led him to pitch his idea for The Network Effect to the Diversity Advisory Council, and his concept was selected. The program’s title comes from the idea that each person who is reached can reach out to others. In this way, knowledge gained is spread through an ongoing network effect, and the power to change expands exponentially.
To see more about the project, see The Network Effect short documentary.
We aR Better Together – Zagreb, Croatia
“I wanted to give participants the opportunity to explore dancing classes, boxing classes, basketball classes, and football classes. So, every one of the kids can find the thing they really want to do and explore it.” This is how adidas Runners coach, Marie Walser, describes part of her vision for the project based in Zagreb, Croatia.
Additionally, Marie was eager to support the local refugee community. The project she leads launched in July 2021 in collaboration with the Zagreb chapter of the organization, Are You Syrious. These sport offers also aim to support the refugee participants as they integrate into society. Through games, drills, running, and training sessions, kids aged 9-17 gain the skills to join local sports clubs with confidence.
One of participants captures some of the program’s power to change like this.
Kimia is already seeing specific successes as a result of her time in the program.
To experience the beauty of the project, watch the mini documentary on We aR Better Together.
adidas Runners Proud to Change – Sao Paulo, Brazil
Based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Proud to Change began in April 2021 in collaboration with Bruno Host (aR Captain and co-founder of Unicorns Brazil) and Casa Florescer. Casa Florescer is Brazil’s first shelter that welcomes people who are transgender. Brazil is one of the deadliest countries in the world for the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, the program’s focus is to create a safe sports environment for transgender women while also supporting them to actively participate in society and the workspace.
Together with our adidas Runners ambassadors Joana and Daniela, who are strong leaders in Sao Paulo’s trans community, we introduced adidas Runners as a safe space for all women. In addition to sport sessions and running challenges, we also provide mentorship to support the positive power to change in other areas of interest to the participants. For instance, the one-on-one sessions focus on goal setting related to mental and physical health, career ambitions, and developing positive social networks.
Additionally, in collaboration with a specialized doctor, we provide knowledge to the participants on how transition hormones can impact their athletic performance. We donate running apparel and footwear to the women so they can feel comfortable doing sports and add their chosen names on the back of their adidas Runners T-shirts. Being able to customize their shirts has been very meaningful to them.
This project will be highlighted in March 2022 on adidas Runners Instagram and YouTube channels.
Limitless – Manila, Philippines
The final project of the series started in October 2021 in Manila, Philippines led by Nikki Torres (adidas Runners Captain). Limitless’ focus is to create a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and support participants in becoming their best, most powerful selves. The adidas Runners holistic approach supports these aims.
We also organized mobility and yoga sessions, talks on choosing the right gear, and hangouts in the new adidas Brand Centre in Manila.
At the end of the program, the Limitless members were challenged to complete a 5k run. At the finish line, the adidas Runners Manila community was waiting for the Limitless runners, ready to welcome them into the adidas Runners Family.
Overall, the project built an engaged running community and friendship group that feels comfortable and safe doing sports together. The group has been meeting up even outside of adidas Runners activities by organizing runs and hangouts together. They also exercise their positive power to change by engaging in other acts that benefit their greater community. For instance, they donate blood to support those in need, including one of their members.
The project will be highlighted in June 2022 during Pride Month on adidas Runners Instagram and adidas Running YouTube channel.
There is room for everyone who loves to move in the adidas Runners community. In addition to these projects, we bring people together through sport across the globe. We are currently active in 71 cities. Even if you don’t live in one of these cities, it is still possible to get involved.
To learn more about how you, too, can contribute to the power to change, find us on Instagram, YouTube , or on Spotify adidas Runners | the talk series | Podcast on Spotify.
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