"You can't be what you can't see."
Sabrina Pace-Humphreys, co-founder of Black Trail Runners.
As a community-built brand, we’ve experienced the power of community first-hand at SunGod.
The SunGod Community makes up the fabric of our business; without you, we wouldn’t be here! Our community of athletes, ambassadors, partners, customers and charities constantly inspires us, guides us, and encourages us to See Better. We know just how much we've gained from our community, so this February we caught up with 5 SunGod Ambassadors who’ve taken it upon themselves to build community in their own way.
From helping Asian runners in New York (re)connect with nature through trail running, to campaigning for gender equality in cycling, to getting city-based Muslims into the great British countryside; Sam, Louise, Haroon, Sabrina and Devin have each founded their own purpose-driven exercise communities, increasing inclusivity, representation and access where it matters most.
Meet the founders of these 5 exercise communities, and discover why they each set out to bring people together in their own way.
1. Muslim Hikers
SunGod Ambassador Haroon Mota founded Muslim Hikers during Covid, as an online community to inspire more Muslims to get outdoors. Since then, it’s grown into the largest community in the world for Muslims interested in the outdoors, and it brings together people of all faiths and none to find community online and in-person through hiking.
Haroon: "For almost 20 years, I've been hiking, adventuring, and enjoying the great British outdoors. I always found it really strange that the diversity I see in my hometown of Coventry isn't reflected out in these rural spaces - so I wanted to do something about it!
I set up Muslim Hikers to encourage our communities to benefit from the outdoors; socially, mentally and physically. When Covid hit, I set up the Instagram page @muslim.hikers thinking that an online community would be a great way to bring people together and tackle loneliness and isolation, at a time when it was very much needed. We’ve since grown into the largest community in the world for Muslims who are interested in the outdoors, and that's incredible.
We've received criticism that we're exclusive, and that we're not making an effort to integrate; that's just not correct. To our critics, I respond with the truth about why we exist; we're called Muslim Hikers because our primary audience is an underrepresented audience in the outdoor industry, that needs to be empowered through community to get outside more. Our walks are for everyone, and we invite people of all faiths and none to join us. The critics don’t deter me; if anything, they validate our mission and give me more motivation.
In setting up Muslim Hikers, I’ve learnt that everybody yearns for community, and that community is so powerful. Together we can achieve so much; we can conquer anything. The level of support we've had, not just from the Muslim community but also from the ally community, from people who recognise and appreciate our work - is just incredible."
Find out more at @muslim.hikers
2. Black Trail Runners
Coach and trail runner Sabrina Pace-Humphreys co-founded Black Trail Runners after noticing that, as a black trail runner, she rarely saw people who looked like her in the sport. Sabrina set up Black Trail Runners to increase participation, inclusion and representation of black people in trail running - because you can’t be what you can’t see.
Sabrina: "We created Black Trail Runners as a community and campaigning group that seeks to increase the inclusion, participation and representation of black people in trail running. We've been really successful in building the community, through tackling the barriers that typically prevent black people from getting involved; in the form of access, skills and representation.
At grassroots level, we host trail taster days where we help people overcome these barriers. We teach people how to skill up through workshops, we help people feel represented, by heading out on mixed ability trail runs led by black run leaders, and we lay on transport and funding to help people get to us. And at the other end, the top-down level, we’re advocating for a seat at the table. We’re a voice for the minoritised communities who aren’t seen and aren’t catered for, so it’s assumed they don’t want to be involved in the sport. And that’s simply not the case. We’re working top-down and bottom-up to identify what the barriers are for our community, and to remove them. We see that when the barriers are taken away, our community grows day by day.
These barriers are often invisible to the majority of the trail running community. When we get out there and highlight these obstacles, and show how the trail running world can improve and become more inclusive, we make it better for everyone. Greater diversity means new ideas, more growth, and ultimately, better performance across the sport. That's just one of the reasons why it's so important."
Find out more at @blacktrailrunners
Louise Vardeman is the Team Captain of the cycling team and campaign group InternationElles. A long-serving SunGod Ambassador, Louise has led the InternationElles in their campaign for gender equality in cycling, particularly in the Tour de France. The InternationElles' hard work was instrumental to the eventual introduction of a women's Tour de France last year - a major milestone the cycling industry.
Louise: “The introduction of the Tour de France Femmes was a huge milestone, and we're so proud to have been involved in campaigning for its very existence. It means the world to us that our campaign worked, and steps are being made to close the gender gap in cycling. There is still so much work to be done but we're really pleased things are moving in the right direction.
Our journey to the Tour de France Femmes has been tiring, gruelling, expensive, and at times frustrating, but it’s been worth it - we've helped create positive change and we've learned the fight is worth the effort.
You can’t be what you can’t see - that means I'm so excited for young girls now, because they can watch the Tour de France and know they can be there one day. They have no reason to think cycling is just a sport for their brothers and dads! We’re creating a strong and diverse cycling community, one where people follow both men’s and women's cycling, encourage peers of all genders to ride out and enjoy the sport, and last but not least, call out inequality when they see it.
Personally, I won’t rest until little girls stop feeling inhibited by their gender. Your influence is bigger than you think, and you have the power to make change - so do it!"
Find out more at @internationelles
4. Radical Adventure Riders ATL
SunGod Ambassador Devin Cowens founded the Atlanta chapter of Radical Adventure Riders in early 2019. She was craving community in bikepacking, but struggled to find other female, non-binary, trans or femme folks to ride with in her area. She started the group simply to find more likeminded people to bikepack with, and it’s grown from there!
Devin: "Exercise communities provide support and care in a way that solo fitness doesn’t. Communities are essential to self-development, and they teach us so much about the world and those around us. To me, RAR Atlanta means community, caring, friendship, support and joy.
If you’ve never been adventure riding before, find a friend or group to ride with, start slow, and know that the options are limitless. Adventure riding can look like anything - from a ride to a local park, to an overnight in a friend's backyard, to a multi-day trip! I love that adventure riding is so versatile and different every time. It doesn’t matter how short or long the ride is, or where I go; each time I’m journeying on my bike is an opportunity to experience nature and the outdoors in new ways, connect with myself and others, and to meditate and heal.
My favorite thing about RAR Atlanta is that it’s given me an opportunity to take a chance on a vision I had and see it come to fruition. Along with my team, we’ve been able to create a gear library, open shop space, workshops and skillshares, and run regular rides for engagement, connection, and resource sharing over the past 4 years. It's taught me the importance and necessity of a community - at the end of the day, if we don’t have community, we have nothing."
Find out more at @rar.atlanta
5. Asian Trail Mix
SunGod Ambassador Sam Dong - pictured pacing over the Brooklyn Bridge in her hometown of New York, below - recently founded a trail running community based in New York City called Asian Trail Mix. Asian Trail Mix meets at least once a month to run trails in the extended NYC metro area, and welcomes everyone who is interested in trail running - regardless of race, gender, age or physical capabilities.
Sam: “I started Asian Trail Mix because I realized there was a lack of diversity and representation in trail running for people of colour, especially for AAPI (Asian American & Pacific Islanders). My initial focus was to have monthly trail runs with various pace groups that can accommodate members with different capabilities. Now we've made that a reality, my long-term goal is to help more people of colour, particularly AAPI, feel comfortable running trails, and to get more Asian Trail Mix members participating in trail races!
Asian Trail Mix is the newest piece of the AAPI running mosaic in NYC, and we advocate for greater diversity and inclusion. We overlap with other groups in the city like Run For Chinatown and Chinatown Runners and we owe a lot of gratitude to these groups - they've helped pave the way for Asian Trail Mix to take root.
Exercise groups like ours are critical to the fabric of our local communities, because that social interaction reinforces consistency and makes exercising fun, instead of just another thing on our to-do list. Exercise communities can also leverage the efforts of the group together to have a greater impact than if everyone acted individually. And the connections and friendships that are forged in groups with movement as a central theme are literally life-changing!”
Find out more at @asiantrailmix
These incredible Ambassadors each run different communities, that target different groups, but they all have one thing in common: they're bringing underrepresented people in sport together, and breaking down barriers to increase representation.
The phrase "you can't be what you can't see" came up repeatedly during these conversations, and to us, this really sums it all up. By helping people feel like they belong, and giving them role models they can relate to, these communities empower their members and make the world of sport a richer, more diverse place.
So, whoever you are, we encourage you to get out there and get active with your own community - because we’re stronger, together.