Growing up in the Cotswolds, a rural area in south-west England, Sabrina Pace-Humphreys was often the only Black person in the spaces she occupied. When she started running to heal from postpartum depression in 2009, she seldom questioned the Whiteness of the running community. After all, start lines were just like the schools she attended as a child, or the local stores where she shopped for groceries—just one of many spaces where no one else looked like her. It was not until Pace-Humphreys—a 43-year-old running coach, personal trainer, mother of four, and grandmother of two—entered the trail running community, that she realized the full burden she carried as a Black woman in an overwhelmingly White sport.
In 2019, while competing in an alpine trail race, Pace-Humphreys lost her footing on an icy patch and slipped off the trail. All of a sudden, she found herself gripping onto the side of a mountain, her knuckles sweating as she screamed for help. In that moment, all Pace-Humphreys could think was that she did not want to die; she could not die. So, she continued screaming as five White men passed by—none of them stopping to help her. It was not until a sixth runner passed by and stopped his race to pull Pace-Humphreys back onto the trail that she knew she would survive.
“As trail runners, we are told during race briefings, ‘if you see a runner who is in distress during a race, you stop and help.’ We are not told, ‘you stop and help if they are White.’ You just stop and help,” says Pace-Humphreys.
Her personal experience as a Black trail runner, followed by the events of 2020—the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, and the constant barrage of violence against Black people—inspired Pace-Humphreys to turn her frustration into action.
In July of 2020, she joined together with five other runners (Sonny Peart, Rachel Dench, Marcus Brown, Phil Young, and Donna Richards) to found Black Trail Runners (BTR). Now a registered charity with a global membership of 425 runners and thousands of social media followers, BTR seeks to increase the inclusion, participation, and representation of Black people in trail running. The founders focus on three barriers to entry: access, skills, and representation.