Diversity, Inclusion and Equality
Rocksteady Running welcomes everyone to our events and into the broader trail running community. You are welcome and valued regardless of your race, gender, sexual identity, orientation, or preference, religious, spiritual, or political beliefs, socioeconomic status, age, how quickly or slowly you run. We love and respect all beings. We ask all of our participants to be kind, compassionate and open minded, and to help lift up their fellow runners.
Significantly, we believe that we have a unique responsibility to BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals, who are underrepresented in trail running, feel welcome and safe. We believe that a more diverse and inclusive trail running community is a better trail running community. We aim to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to share in the transformative and life-affirming experiences that trail and ultra running and racing provides.
Rocksteady Running is committed to identifying and enacting policies that create welcoming, inclusive and safe spaces for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ runners, volunteers, and spectators. We will take responsibility and make amends for the times we have failed to live up to these ideals. We will listen to and take seriously the concerns of our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ community members.
Minnesota is often cited as having one of the most robust running communities in the nation. If the overall number of runners, runners per capita, the tenure of running clubs and races, number of specialty running retailers, and open spaces conducive to running are measures of this success, it is hard to argue against the assertion. When we look at diversity in the local running community however, it is clear that there is significant room for progress and a case to be made for some common sense interventions.
From the Minnesota Department of Health’s website: “Residents of color comprise 21 percent of Minnesota’s total population. This varies by age: 32% of our state’s youngest residents (age 0-4) are of color, compared to 6% of our oldest residents (age 65+). Minnesota continues to rank among the states with smaller shares of residents of color (38th). The state has seen a 29% growth in its population of color since 2010, ninth highest among states. The Twin Cities region has one of the lowest shares of people of color compared to other major metro areas. That said, the population of color is growing rapidly and expected to make up at least 35% of the region’s overall population by 2035.”
While statistics are not readily available, anecdotal evidence, including; start lines of races, a visit to a local specialty run shop, or an afternoon at the busiest running and walking paths in the state, suggests that runners of color are underrepresented in the local running community when compared to the share of Minnesota residents of color, a number that is already low when compared to national averages.
Our hope is that through clearly communicating and enacting policies that align with our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality, that existing BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ runners will view and experience Rocksteady Running events as a safe and welcoming environment. We hope that this will in turn encourage others to try trail running so all may reap the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of the sport.
There have been times in the past where our words and actions have been harmful to underrepresented populations. For this we are truly sorry. We will take responsibility, make amends, ask for forgiveness and work at building trust. Past shortcomings fall squarely on the shoulders of Rocksteady Running leadership.
For many years the Superior Spring Trail Race had a white volunteer who dressed in a hybrid of Civil War and Native American (like) regalia and greeted runners at the turnaround of the 50KM race. While his actions were not encouraged or sanctioned by the event, they were also not discouraged or corrected. In 2017 the event was graciously confronted by an Indigenous participant about this individual. His presence had created confusion and caused hurt among Indigenous participants. While we eventually took action by asking this volunteer to no longer attend the event dressed in this way, we did not do so proactively, or quickly enough, and we never addressed the situation publicly. We were wrong in not doing so. Not only did our Indigenous participants deserve action, but they also deserved a formal public apology. We are sorry for the hurt and confusion that we caused. Furthermore, the running community at large could have benefited from greater transparency and from seeing our organization model appropriate behavior, setting the expectation that we intend for our events to be a safe and welcoming place for Indigenous participants.
In 2019 we shared a piece of artwork (created by others) that depicted Native Americans. The motivation for sharing the piece was that it prominently depicted an iconic part of the Superior racecourse. We did not recognize the significance of some of the imagery – imagery that was hurtful and racist. Ignorance is not an excuse, we recognize that it is our responsibility to be educated and to own our actions. The Indigenous participant who confronted us about the issue with our volunteer a couple of years prior, contacted us about this artwork and we took it down, but again, we did not take accountability at the time and we should have. We were careless, we were wrong for sharing the piece and we are sorry for the hurt that this caused. Again, we missed an opportunity to be a supportive ally, lead and model appropriate behavior for the community.
The Afton Trail Run has used as its logo different imagery of birds of prey over the years; eagles, vultures and hawks. For a couple editions of the race, we used a Thunderbird as the focal point of the race artwork. The thunderbird is a legendary creature in certain Indigenous peoples’ history and culture. While meant to show reverence for the Indigenous people of our state, it was not our place to use this Native symbol and we have discontinued its use.
After the 2019 edition of the Superior Spring Trail race, our race recap was written specifically to highlight the modest amount of, yet beautiful diversity, that does exist at our events. This writeup included references to the diversity of participants as it related to their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. and was generally intended to pay homage to the awesome, vibrant and unique individuals that make up an RSR race. This was a clumsy attempt to signal “all are welcome here”. A better way of writing this article, while still highlighting the wonderful individuals that make up our events, would have been to more heavily focus on the “similarities” that exist among us as trail runners. We are sorry to those we offended or made feel uncomfortable with this article.
When Rocksteady Running participants, volunteers, crew, family, friends or spectators have concerns, we will listen. We will model behaviour that aligns with our values. We will foster a safe and welcoming environment for all.
Rocksteady Running makes financial donations to organizations in many sectors including community and civic groups, religious organizations, trail systems and associations, state parks and more. We have in the past, and will continue in the future, to support organizations and causes that benefit underrepresented populations. Past beneficiaries have included the NAACP, ACLU, Lake Street Council, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s ‘Spirit Run’.
For over a decade we have used a Minneapolis based minority owned business to produce our race t-shirts and a portion of our retail apparel and we will continue to do so in the future. We will continue to look for opportunities to contract with other minority owned businesses.
In 2021 we began the practice of doing Indigenous land acknowledgements before all of our races. We feel that it is important to acknowledge that most of the places that we run were inhabited by Indigenous populations prior to colonialism. These lands were often taken through unfair, deceptive, and broken treaties, coercion and force. These lands remain places of cultural and spiritual significance to Indigenous people. It is important to recognize this traumatic history and honor our Indigenous participants’ connection to these lands.
For our 2022 event season, race registrants will be asked their race/ethnicity during the race registration process (there will also be an option to opt-out for those that do not wish to share this information). We will use this information to better understand the demographics of those participating in our events, in order to inform policies that best support all of our participants.
In addition to the policies outlined above, we will continue to look for new ways to remove barriers and welcome underrepresented populations to our events and the broader trail running community.
For anyone that is facing economic hardship:
We will continue to ensure that economic factors are not a barrier to participation in our events and will formalize and more clearly articulate on our registration pages our longstanding policy of providing entry fee assistance for runners who are in need.
In continued alignment with a primary objective of the event, we will continue to keep registration fees for our Endless Summer Trail Run Series extremely low. These low fees are explicitly intended to keep the races accessible to as many as possible, so that economic factors are not a barrier to participation. The entry fee for each individual series race is $25. We provide a full-fledged race experience including a giveaway, a chip-timed race, tons of experienced and friendly volunteers and refreshments after.