I have been a runner for 25 years and safety has always been a factor for me. I actively change my running behavior during the winter months. I run in groups, and I let my friends know when and where I am running – it’s just something female runners know to do. We don’t have the same opportunities to run when we want as men do.

Sharing this puts a spotlight on the importance and necessity of the adidas Runners ‘With Women We Run’ initiative. An initiative that is striving to change the narrative and status quo of women in sport. Our goal is to create allies in our communities. We will hold ourselves accountable and lead with transparency to help spark a change in the culture of sport and running.

First learn, then take action

Over the last eight months, we have been collaborating with over 20 female community leaders from around the world to get a better understanding of local and regional challenges. This helps to ensure a globally relevant approach. Together with White Ribbon (our partner to promote men’s engagement as allies in ending gender-based violence and discrimination) and Amanda Sussman (human rights activist, author, and consultant), we co-created an educational program for 250+ adidas Runners captains and coaches that will be implemented in all 74 adidas Runners cities across the globe: With Women We Run.

To ensure we can keep our message visible and to empower long-term change, we’ve come up with a phased approach to establish a strong understanding of the topic and a commitment to deliver.

Phase 1 focuses on learning and self-reflection about what gender inequality is, and how it impacts the culture of running around us. You can download the full allyship toolkit here.

Phase 2 focuses on action and allyship to learn and understand what it takes to become a lifelong ally. You can download the full allyship toolkit here.

We encourage you to take in the information presented in the allyship toolkits that we have created, because we believe that as runners – and through the power of allyship – we are well placed to transform running culture and in doing so, create a more gender-just world. Now and always.

A large group of people listening to a discussion
Engaging with our coaches and community leaders in Herzo.

Empowering our people to drive the message

To further drive the impact of this initiative, we invited over 50 adidas Runners community leaders to our Global HQ for a weeklong immersive experience to address the topic of harassment in running and sports. During the week we hosted workshops, panel talks and created safe spaces to exchange experiences with the goal of contributing to safer sports and running environments globally. We were supported by our expert partners Humberto Carolo (from White Ribbon) and Amanda Sussman who led workshops and sessions on allyship and how to build our communities in a way that everyone is respected and feels safe.

We also added some more creative elements into the sessions, including group meditation and self-reflection on the topics of safety, gender inequality and how to improve this. Our community leaders then expressed their thoughts, ambitions, and optimism by creating their own personal artwork, supported by artist Annina Roescheisen.

Partnering up with Tirop’s Angels

We joined forces with the elite athletes who participated in our adizero Road to Records, and together we honoured Agnes Tirop with a beautiful 5k run: adidas Runners x elite athletes. To Agnes – and all other runners who have ever experienced harassment or violence – we dedicated this run to you.

Agnes broke the 10k world record at the 2021 event with a staggering time of 30:01. One month later, her name became one of the list of millions who face gender-based violence every year. Together with Tirop’s Angels – an organisation united against this global issue and founded by elite athletes Joan Chelimo, Viola Lagat Cheptoo and Mary Keitany – our adidas Runners captains and coaches hosted a panel discussion to address the topic of harassment in running and sports as a whole.

Using the Road to Records event as a way to spread the message.

The Tirop’s Angels logo was laced to the uniforms of all female athletes competing in the adizero Road to Records 10k and will be placed on icon athletes’ uniforms soon. adidas is also contributing $150k over the next four years to the foundation.

Amplifying at the Boston Marathon

We also had the opportunity to create awareness around With Women We Run during the Boston Marathon. It was a perfect timing, given the 50th anniversary of women being allowed to run in the event. Here, we were able to bring the conversation of gender inequality and harassment in running to the stage of a world marathon major.

We hosted a panel discussion and were joined by adidas Runners community leaders from New York City and Los Angeles (Jessie Zapo and Martin Torres), Jen Rhines (three time US Olympian and coach), Amanda Nurse (local adidas athlete and mother) and Viola Lagat Cheptoo (Chairperson for Tirop’s Angels) to share their experiences and perspectives on this important topic and how we create meaningful change within the culture of running and sport for women.

People posing for a group photo in running gear
The adidas Runners community spreading the word in Boston.

Creating lasting change

“We are only just getting started.”
Rebecca Gough, Senior Manager Sports Marketing at adidas

While we’re pleased with the progress we’ve made so far, we are only just getting started. Awareness and education form the foundation, and action and allyship are the next steps.

We are building a manifesto and framework that will lead to a truly safe and inclusive community experience, where every community leader and every community member will commit to our values and uphold them as clear boundaries. Taking this action individually – and as a community – will contribute to creating real change and impact in the culture of running and women’s sport.

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by Ken Parker 09.06.2022
You might help make things safer for female athletes by not promoting males to compete against females. Just a thought.
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