Trail running’s urgent need to diversify

By Brian Metzler

The beautiful thing about track and field has always been its diversity. In both the U.S. and across the globe, it is truly a universal sport made up of a diverse group of competitors from differing racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. But while running is one of the world’s most universal sports, not all aspects of the sport are as diverse as track and field in the U.S. — especially trail running.

A lot has happened on the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) front since the massive social awakening that emerged in 2020. The Running Industry Diversity Coalition has been providing numerous resources for education and strategy. Running shoe brands have gone out of their way to portray multicultural imagery, videos and storytelling in trail running, and make sure their elite teams are diverse in their makeup.

While that messaging and exposure have led to steps in the right direction and more opportunities for runners from a wider range of racial and ethnic backgrounds, there’s still a lot of work to be done in trail running. Show up at any trail race or scan through the results of the country’s most popular ultra-distance events and you’ll find that there are more runners from overseas than there are non-white runners from the U.S.

“While you’re training for that race it’s all you, but as soon as I show up, I’ll realize I am the only brown person there,” says Angel Tadytin, a native Navajo who lives in the Phoenix area. When she runs, Tadytin says she feels the connection of her ancestors and the legacy of running as an act of gratitude. She trained and finished the Moab Red Hot Ultra 33k race in February, but not without moments of doubt when she arrived.

“I was the only brown girl with dark brown hair, and one of the only people who wasn’t skinny,” Tadytin says. “It’s uncomfortable. No one has to remind me.”