Ivy Farguheson: The risk of running while black or brown

Ivy Farguheson

As I was running through Sugar House Park recently, I wondered if anyone had heard of what had happened to Ahmaud Arbery.

Back in late February, Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was killed by two white men in Brunswick, Ga., men who thought he was a suspect in a crime. He was not, but that possibility did not cross their minds. This error caused a bullet to enter the body of the 25-year-old who was doing nothing more than what I do five days a week in Salt Lake City.

When he told his mother he was going out for a run — in what was probably the manner in which I tell my husband I’m doing the same — he spoke his last words to the women who birthed him, while going to do what he loved.

Running can be peaceful for many people, but not always for people of color. As an Afro-Latina who has run more than 50 marathons, I can tell you stories of how others have enacted their racism on me for nothing more than being Black, Latinx and running. In Salt Lake City, in Boston, in Muncie, Ind., and more, I have had people yell the N-word at me while out on a run.

Police officers have stopped and frisked. Drivers have slowed down enough to spit at me and yell something along the lines of “Go back to Africa” (or “Go back to Mexico” if I’m wearing a shirt with Spanish lettering). I’m not alone in these stories. Despite all of this hate, I have never, ever thought I could die doing what I love so much. Quite the opposite.

Going out for a run brings a sense of being alive. For some it may be about getting faster, for others it may be about practicing their meditative breathing. But for all, the ability to tie up the laces and move the body in a dance against the air is a way to demonstrate that we are living our lives to its fullest. We are alive. We do not expect our bodies to end up on a street with bullets ending our breathing.

The death Ahmaud Arbery changed all of that for me.

Being black and brown in America typically means being unable to live in peace. Experience tells me this is the truth. News reports inform us regularly of people of color being harassed and killed for any number of things white Americans simply do: Walking down the street, going home from a corner store, listening to music at a city park, selling cigarettes on the street. And now running.

It seems brown and black people are killed simply for being alive.

While some may be wary of running in the future as a result of Arbery’s murder, I for one choose to see his death as call for purpose.

I will continue to hear the N-word thrown my way when I run and others will tell me to go back to where they think I came from. Racism is a part of life and it shows its ugly head when I do the things I love as much as when I do the things I don’t.

But in memory of Ahmaud Arbery, I will remember that the best way to fight back is to live my life doing what I love. And that is to run.

Because to run as a person of color is to live. Fully. No bullet can stop that mindset.

Ivy Farguheson

Ivy Farguheson, Salt Lake City, is an avid runner who is completing her 50 marathons in 50 states journey.