Photo Credit: My Beautiful People Run
My Beautiful People Run: A Copenhagen Running Group For People Of Color
Ntokazi Zozo Mposula is the founder of My Beautiful People Run, a group for runners of color in Copenhagen. A 44-year-old South African mother of two, Zozo is a school teacher by profession, as well as a photographer, certified yoga teacher, and Asics Frontrunner ambassador.
She started the running group earlier this year as an extension of a prior project, My Beautiful People, which is a space dedicated to documenting the beauty and diversity of Afro-Danes by sharing inspiring stories through images and words. After 23 years in Denmark, Zozo discovered that she would rarely come across other runners of color while she was out running.
“As a Black woman, I garnered a lot of reactions,” said Zozo. “I often found myself in white spaces, and it was exhausting constantly being the receiver of racist and stereotypical comments, or being made to feel invisible or othered. I yearned for a space where I could just be. I was tired of being invited to tables and having to accept whatever was on offer. I wanted to be the one inviting and choosing who to invite.”
Having begun running alone, Zozo would share stories of her runs accompanied by the question ‘How are you staying fit today?’ and the hashtag #MyBeautifulPeopleRun. It started to seem that running had become an exclusive sport that only a few could enjoy, though Zozo knew that was not the truth. She desired to create a space where running and exercising were an accessible and affordable wellness; where others like her could reap the mental, physical, and spiritual benefits.
“When I became an ambassador for Asics, I think that gave me confidence to share images of me running. This was during the first COVID lockdown. We were all suffering from the confinement. So after the lockdown, several women asked if they could join me. This was the beginning. The growth of the group has become a collective task. We each invite whoever is in our circle, and they invite others.”
As the group grew, Zozo continued hearing the same story from group members new and old who had shared similar experiences with racism and feeling excluded in Copenhagen. They were all happy to now have a space that was exclusively for them.
“Black and brown people do not cope well in the north. There’s a lack of light. So we become each other’s sunlight every Saturday. In addition to the physical benefits of running, there are major mental and spiritual benefits of being part of this space. Here, people of color can feel seen, valued, appreciated, and more than a skin color. We laugh, we challenge one another to get better at whatever we need to improve upon. We also share knowledge, as we are a diverse group of professionals who excel at what we do. This is more than a running group; it is a space of growth and wellness for US. This is Black excellence in the making.”
The group consists of men and women runners and walkers of different abilities and body types, ranging in age from three months to 60 years old. Its diverse membership includes people from all walks of life, from entrepreneurs to school teachers and even students.
As an Asics Frontrunner, Zozo functions as a community caregiver, encouraging people to join, stay focused, and achieve whatever goals they might have. Now, she also has group members who perform the same task, ensuring that even on days when she is not there, there is someone to welcome new members, guide them, and assist them in any way needed. In addition to participating in running events such as the Copenhagen Half Marathon, as the group expands in the community, they have started coaching young people.
“2021 was the year of inception and testing our team spirit. We achieved the goal of expanding from a group of runners to now including walkers as well as mothers and their babies. We have grown and hope to expand both locally and around Scandinavia. My Beautiful People Run should be accessible to each and every Black and brown person living in or visiting Denmark. We want to normalize brown and Black bodies doing something beautiful as we stand united.”
Next, Zozo hopes for the group to run the Copenhagen Marathon, and she would like to begin offering kemetic yoga classes. She also dreams to have Asics become an official sponsor of My Beautiful People Run, and she welcomes travelers visiting Copenhagen to join the group on Saturdays.
“A donation of some sort is appreciated when participating. I also offer 5 km sightseeing runs to experience The Little Mermaid, the royal residences, and other tourist sites close to the route.”
For more information, follow @mybeautifulpeoplerun and @zomposula on Instagram. Anyone interesting in getting in touch with Zozo to support or run with My Beautiful People Run may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.