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I'm On A Mission To Complete 50 Marathons In 50 Countries By Age 50

I don't always see as much representation as I'd like, but I get out there and I represent.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Monique White's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

I completed race #43 in Chile just days before the country closed its borders.

So close to my goal, yet so far away.

The goal?

To quite literally run the world, starting with the #MoniqueRuns50 goal, which is to run half or full marathons in 50 countries by my 50th birthday. I was on track to complete this before the world went on lockdown, but all plans have changed and I've refused to allow it to discourage me. Instead, I've pivoted this goal and slightly altered due to all canceled and postponed races.

Now, I plan to meet my goal within my 50th year (before my 51st birthday).

I'm originally from Los Angeles, California, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Howard University's School of Law. Currently, I live in the Netherlands, where I've resided for 21 beautiful years.

I became an avid runner after watching the 1992 Summer Olympics one day. The sprinters had such beautiful bodies and I needed to get in shape. I started slow, trotting around my neighborhood, carefully finding my rhythm. But I wasn't seeing the results I was looking for. Unfortunately, my Olympic body never showed up that year, but it did fuel my passion for running.

It wasn't until nearly a year later that I ran my first distance race – 10km in Leiden, Netherlands – then a half marathon in Amsterdam and in 2010 my first full marathon, also in Amsterdam.

And just like that, I was in love.

Initially, I just wanted to just run various races around the Netherlands but after completing a few races in France and making a point to log miles in every country and city I traveled to, my vision expanded along with my territory, and I upgraded that goal to a quest to run the world.

To date, I have ran more than 45 full and half marathons in 43 countries, on 6 continents. I have several more on the calendar and I'm only 7 marathons away from fulfilling my purpose. Imagine that; fulfilling your purpose. What a feeling.

In 2013, I considered chasing a much larger goal in earnest. Morocco, Israel, Spain, Sweden, and Iceland were among the places that I ran that year. By now, I was aware that I'd not only completed races in several different countries but on 4 continents as well. However, I had no interest in running on all 7 continents, because all continents would include Antarctica, which means cold – hella cold, freezing even, and...nah.

I continued running the world, and then sometime in 2015 I took a good look at my race history, and with close to closing out 20 countries at that point, I decided to hone in on my quest and make a more defined goal. Additionally, I was going through a divorce, and approaching 50, which, as I noted in my journal: "Creeping up on 50…who am I kidding? There's no creeping. The speed at which that birthday is approaching is faster than any pace I've ever run."

I needed something to focus on, a distraction, something to run TOWARD. With races in nearly 20 countries to my credit and awareness of the trend of running races in all 50 states, I modeled my goal after that. And that is how #MoniqueRuns50 came to fruition.

Over time, I collected memories of some of the most beautiful routes, opportunities, countries, and spiritual pavement miles—my favorite being the Pyramids Half Marathon in Cairo, which I ran earlier this year. Running around the Pyramids was euphoric—the only appropriate way to describe the experience. I have ran lots of races in lots and lots of places, and I can honestly say that none are probably as amazingly scenic as a "race through history" in the Great Pyramid of Giza – the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – as a backdrop. The Florence Marathon was another favorite of mine, which despite – or probably because—running in the middle of a very contentious divorce, I made my very best finishing time—a much-needed personal victory.

Anyway, my journeys, destinations, and travels have always been constant themes in my life, so I held on to my running passion, amidst my adversities, including an injury a couple of years ago which stopped my running for more than 6 months and also put a stop to about 10 perspective races I had planned for that year.

Needless to say, as much as I love running, running in my purpose, hasn't been all cute running gear and awesome medals. There have been some bumps in the road and major setbacks.

--

Ladies, I share my story, because it's time for us to welcome worldly fitness and healthy habits into our lives, and it is so important that we find joy in it. I preach this to any and every black woman that I'm fortunate enough to come across.

Although I wouldn't necessarily say there are stigmas surrounding black women and running, I just don't always see as much representation as I'd like.

And with organizations such as Black Girls RUN! or the National Black Marathoners' Association, black runners are now heavily supported, something not many know about.

These organizations show that black women's running ability can expand far beyond the scope of what we see when it comes to the training and sprinting and going up and down a basketball court or football field. We can go the distance as well. And we are showing up and showing out in marathon century clubs, 50 state marathon clubs, and even the 7-continent marathon club (like the Black Icee Project).

As for how I'm combating the lack of representation, I just get out there and run. And mostly, I represent.

When I'm overwhelmed, I spend more time praying, reading my Bible, and journaling. Post-runs, I always go for a shower, chow down on something that includes protein, and practice active recovery, such as a brisk walk to help combat stiffness. OH, and a good ole glass of wine. I also look to my amazing daughters (18, 16), they ease any worries I have in my day.

Sisters, if you're interested in marathon running, go for it. Find a good training plan that's at least 6 months long. Build your stamina, go longer than you think you can. Training is essential. Consider starting with the run-walk method/Galloway plan. Remember to warm-up and cool down. And always incorporate rest days.

My 44th marathon will be here before you know it and I'll be hitting my 50th birthday this August (or as I like to say, sooner than I'd like to admit). I welcome you to join my journey and run with me, I welcome you to experience my view.

Because nothing is going to stop me from finishing.

Monique plans to complete her 44th marathon as soon as the pandemic weakens and she's able to continue her journey. Follow her travel or running pages, as well as her hashtag #MoniqueRuns50, on Instagram to keep up with her next marathon.

Featured image courtesy of Monique White

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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