On this episode of Running Times, Takia McClendon, talks about founding City Fit Girls, an all levels running and fitness community for cis and transgender women, and her role as a USATF Run Coach.
With a degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from West Chester University, Takia changed career paths after starting a Philly food blog critiquing grocery stores. It turned into a job where she had access to health and wellness resources.
Takia is currently part of the Well City Challenge which gives her the chance to help tackle the increasing rate of bad mental and physical health in millenials. She created the program Strides for this challenge that will combat this crisis in fitness, mind, and body. If her program is selected, she will be awarded $10,000 to execute her plan.
The Running Times theme song is brought to you by StudioD productions.
Lowering The Entry Barrier To Running & Fitness
Gagz: [00:00:00] All right, everybody. Welcome back. We are live. Everybody, welcome to 2021. My name’s Michael Albert Gagliardi, also known as gags. This is a very special treat. We have to bridge the season one and season two before you started just a quick little recap, the first thing I want to say is to everybody happy new year.
We have a new president, thankfully. We have the vaccines are being rolled out, hopefully. And I’d like to think that by the middle of this year, hopefully fingers crossed. We’re going to see hopefully the beginning of some races start to come back to the city. I know the Philly distance run is back.
The half marathon is back. That’s going to be in September 19th. We’re pumped. I certainly have races on my schedule and that the fans out there to listeners and homeless wanna say, thank you again. We’re getting there guys. I have been working hard at season two and I thought, you know what? Like we have, I have a I’m so petrified of what boxers and fighters call ring rust.
Like I had a nice season. I had this nice flow and then the holidays hit and it’s break time and I’m sitting here, like I’m losing my mind guys. And I wanted to bring somebody in to bridge season one and season two. And when I’m looking at the people I have lined up for season two, when we’ve got some doozies, all boy, am I excited!
But I’m looking around. I’m like, you know what? I’ve got it. So, without further ado, I would love, I am so excited to welcome to RADIOKISMET studios Takia McClendon. Finally, Takia. Welcome
Takia McClendon: [00:01:39] Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Gagz: [00:01:42] We are so pumped to have you. For those at home, Takia is a certified personal trainer certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
She is a USA track and field certified coach. She’s also a women’s coach and specialist with certified out of Girls Gone Strong along with Tiara Smalls, Takia founded City Fit Girls back in 2013. City Fit Girls is an all levels running and fitness community for cis and transgendered women, as well as non-binary people who were comfortable in a space that centers, the experience of women.
She works tirelessly to lower the entry barrier to running. She, in my opinion, personifies the spirit behind the phrase “think globally, act locally.” My notes for Takia include descriptions like connector, a problem solver, a leader. I have down here Takia. I have influencer, but that word gets tossed around like too frequently, it’s like a real dicey word.
Takia McClendon: [00:02:46] Not one that I would use.
Gagz: [00:02:48] People call me that too. I’m like, it just skeeves me. So I’m going to call you a luminary.
Takia McClendon: [00:02:53] Okay. This is the first time anyone’s called me. Illuminary that’s.
Gagz: [00:02:58] That’s exactly how I see you. You are illuminary. I see you as you were mission-driven. Grassroots action minded. In short you’re a force, and before we get started in the City Fit Girls and everything, one of the big reasons why I’m bringing you on here today Takia is you are involved with something called the Well City Challenge.
And the timing on this couldn’t be more perfect because not only are you going to have a chance to explain to my listeners now in the panel of judges, what that’s all about, but we can also help you get there.
Takia McClendon: [00:03:31] Very excited about that.
Gagz: [00:03:32] Let’s start with this Takia. Talk to me about the Well City Challenge.
Takia McClendon: [00:03:36] Sure. Thanks. So the Well City Challenge is a program that started by Independence Blue Cross and the economy league. So a couple of years back blue cross blue shield produced a report that covered millennial health and they found that millennials were suffering from some really bad health conditions physical and mental just in comparison to generations that came before millennials were experienced in them at a higher rate.
And so IBX teamed up with the Economy League for Philadelphia specifically to try to figure out a way that small businesses, local organizations, nonprofits anybody who had an idea of a way that we can tackle this. We’re invited to pitch their ideas. And so
Gagz: [00:04:21] if I’m not mistaken, there were over a hundred.
Yeah. Different entrance. You had over a hundred ideas being submitted during the open call and 15 community solutions were shows that were selected, chosen broken up into three categories. And what’s so awesome about you is here’s the thing, when we talked before, I knew that you were one of the three categories and I couldn’t figure out which one it was by looking at the three choices here, because that’s how universal your program is.
So the three categories are.
Takia McClendon: [00:04:53] Fitness mind and body, which is the category that we’re competing in. There is food and nutrition, and then social connection, I believe is what they landed on
Gagz: [00:05:03] community. And and social connection. And this could have been City Fit Girls
Takia McClendon: [00:05:06] could have been, it could have been but we felt like.
The program that we were trying to pitch was a little bit more centered around mind and body specifically because with COVID and everything, obviously you can have a community and the five folks who were selected to represent that category are showing that you can keep your community strong. But we wanted to make sure that whatever it is that we were building.
It would be community driven, but could also survive without that same community feel. So we wanted to make sure that we weren’t pigeonholed into that one category. To make sure that folks, no matter if they were in Philly, if they didn’t have access to the group runs that we’re going to be offering, they could still feel like this is something that.
They could be a part of, and
Gagz: [00:05:45] your program is called Strides. I love that because it’s what the whole double entendre strides in your personal. I love it. Yeah.
Takia McClendon: [00:05:54] I’m so glad you got it. The funny thing about that name is that so the working document that we had when we were.
Just creating the program outline. I had to record a video. We didn’t know what we were going to call it. And so the document is literally called unnamed running program. Like to this day we don’t, we didn’t know what it was called. And I didn’t land on Strides until. I was literally recording the voiceover for the video.
And I was like, we gotta put something in here and it’s just like Strides. It works. Unfortunately there are a couple of other programs out there caught run stride or some kind of stride.
Gagz: [00:06:28] There’s only so much you can do with one . You can’t call themselves the circum ambulator, you have to go with running or something running specific.
I’m on board with that name and here’s, what’s cool. Takia. If you were selected you have a chance to win $10,000
Takia McClendon: [00:06:41] $10,000 to make the program happen.
Gagz: [00:06:44] Which is like a nice chunk of change.
Takia McClendon: [00:06:46] It is it’s incredible. We also had to send them a specific report detailing how we would use that $10,000.
Gagz: [00:06:53] And that’s for the first place in your specific category? If for some reason No, I’ll say this much. If you are not selected as the winner, we also have the chance to win $7,500. And that’s where, if something does go awry here and your program is not selected, this is where we have a chance to really help you out.
So on March 4th and you can find that all this out on City Fit Girls’s website I believe the website also on the, on this, the Well City Challenge. You’ll find it. There. There’s an event on Event brite for March 4th, 5:15 to 6:30. You can watch Takia. Give the what I’m going to call almost like worldwide.
It’s actually what they’re calling a, almost like a shark tank type.
Takia McClendon: [00:07:35] It’s a pitch competition. And so we’re going to have to go up there. I’m not actually sure how much time I even get to do my pitch, but yeah, it’s shark tank style. So I’m expecting not yet. Not yet. And I’ll tell you why in a second, but they’re doing.
A four week program leading up to the pitch competition. And so I’d imagine that the program that I wrote out will probably change with some of the things that we’re going to be learning along the way.
Gagz: [00:08:03] And this program is so cool because what they’re doing is they’re partnering you with a mentor within the program.
So they’re going to give you tips and to help you out no matter what. Now, if the stars are not aligned and something crazy happens, and you’re not selected, you still walk away with all of this knowledge and you’ve been doing the same thing you’ve been doing no matter what. So you’re going to grow and as you grow, your community grows.
So as far as I’m concerned, this is a win for everybody.
Takia McClendon: [00:08:27] It’s a win and we’re going to make this program happen regardless. It might take a little longer to get off the ground just without the extra bump of having $10,000 upfront. Yeah. But it’s a program that’s going to happen.
We’ve been trying to figure out a way to get more of an organized training program through City Fit Girls just to go alongside with the group runs and the track workouts that we offer. And so it just makes perfect sense to do it either way.
Gagz: [00:08:53] Can you speak at all about your mentor? And if you can you say anything about how the vision of your how it first started on paper with just this one particular thing that you’re working on and how it’s changed in just the last
couple of weeks.
Takia McClendon: [00:09:05] Oh my God.
So the first thing I’ll address the second part of that question first. When I have a friend who’s also a client of mine, she came to me and she’s the one who told me. That the Well City Challenge was a thing. And so I had been toying around with this idea before I even knew what the Well City Challenge was.
And so it has existed in some form or some capacity, like in my mind, and like in some notes on paper, but never a program that we were able to bring to life. And so I would say I’ve been thinking about this since maybe 2017 or 2018. And so this friend of mine Hey, Here’s the opportunity that I want you to make sure that you apply to.
Gagz: [00:09:46] I’m going to pause you just for one second. I called you a luminary earlier on, so here you are, you got three years ago. You already thinking this up, please continue.
Takia McClendon: [00:09:56] Yeah, absolutely. It’s so I had actually pitched a version of the idea to her. Cause I wanted to try to figure out a way to implement this in the.parks and recreation department. And so I had talked to her about this, before we even knew that the Well City Challenge was a thing. And so she forwarded me the email and she’s here, this is it. This is how you bring this idea to life. I want to make sure you apply. And so I’m one of those people that if I have I have a bunch of ideas.
And I’ll write them down and then never looked back. And so she’s and just to make sure you apply, I’m gonna reach back out to you in two weeks and I want you to make sure you upload, all the answers to the questions. Cause there was like the application process to get into this program was it was a lot.
Gagz: [00:10:36] And you know what I’m okay with that cause when I’m talking about a couple of dollars on the line, we’re talking about a hundred thousand dollars here.
Takia McClendon: [00:10:44] It’s a lot of money. It’s a lot of money and there’s a lot of people, so from the beginning, you get that first 10,000, but if you make it through the end of the program, there’s a lot more money available.
And so the idea started as a race training program specifically. And so between the time I did the application there was an event put on by Run House. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with those guys. We sat on a panel where we talked about the future of running and just how running will look.
As far as inclusivity, how it looks with, COVID just, with all the new things that are being brought to light and all the conversations that are going on, what does running look like in 2021 and beyond? And so I’m like, a race training program is like what I want, I’m very, goal-oriented going out for a run and I’m not training for a race.
It’s really hard for me to do. And so I’m like, people need motivation. They need to have that finish line to look forward to. And after that conversation, though, that I had on that panel where we talk about, running, be it more inclusive, I was looking at this from the lens of, we need to make racing more inclusive.
And so my answer to that was we need to make sure that more people have access to quality training, which is true. But then I took it a step back even further. It’s just people just need to know how to run. And so the basics. Just the basics. And so there will still be that training component specifically with the brush straight run, but we’re going to be also just taking it like way back.
There’s going to be a 28 day. Like get started program that’s going to be like walk, run focused. Okay. There’s going to be, six week 5k, eight week run strong. So that way you can learn how to incorporate strength, training get up to about five or six miles and then we’ll tackle some of those longer distances. But just that cycle that we just talked about, I think it comes out to about four months of running programming. And so for a new runner, To have access to that kind of coaching and the videos and everything that we’re going to make available. I think it’s gonna make a really big difference. Yeah.
Gagz: [00:12:46] Super exciting.
Takia McClendon: [00:12:48] So in my mind, and we’ll see, by the time this comes out and we do the pitch, we’ll see where this actually ends up. But I’m looking to create. More like a like a training portal. So we’re talking videos, audio guided runs, workshops. I want dieticians, I want mental health folks.
Like I want people to come in and really, help new runners navigate all the things that you know, when you and I probably first started out, we didn’t have all the answers to . So running is one of those things that’s super intimidating when you’re on the outside looking in, and then even when you’re in it, you don’t really feel like you’re in it.
And so we just want to help bridge that gap and make sure that people feel more involved more welcomed earlier and sooner so that they can get out there and start running those races if they want to.
Gagz: [00:13:32] That’s awesome.
Takia McClendon: [00:13:33] I’m pumped.
Gagz: [00:13:34] You should be pumped. I’m super pumped for you.
Takia McClendon: [00:13:36] The first part of that question that you asked though was about my advisor.
Gagz: [00:13:40] Yes. Yes.
Takia McClendon: [00:13:41] And so I actually just got the email on Friday about who my advisor is. So we haven’t actually had a chance to talk yet, but I know her and I don’t know if you know her too, but it’s Catherine who used to be the executive director of Back on My Feet. Do you know, Catherine.
Gagz: [00:13:57] I know the name.
Takia McClendon: [00:13:59] She’s a rock star, so I’m really excited that she’s going to be the person who I get to work with.
Gagz: [00:14:05] That’s a good partnership right there.
Takia McClendon: [00:14:07] I think so, too. And so she’s actually no longer went Back on My Feet. She’s moved on, but if we’re talking about someone who has experience, getting group runs off the ground all around a city, that’s happening all at the same time working with a population of runners who may not have access to running before and, getting them on their feet. I just think that it’s going to be a good matchup. So our first meetup is actually tomorrow. So I’ll be able to talk to her.
Gagz: [00:14:29] So let me ask you a question Takia. Let me just back it up a second. Let me let me go to the young Takia here, because in my mind I had this picture of you and this is something that’s something ever since I became a parent, when I start to, like, when I start to get to know somebody or when I start to interact with people, Try to picture them as like a child.
I had this picture view is like just a really studious, like you probably sat in the front row. You had your hand up when the question was raised,
Takia McClendon: [00:14:57] I was a good student.
Gagz: [00:14:58] Am I off base now?
Takia McClendon: [00:14:59] You’re not. So I would say maybe elementary school to middle school. I was very
Gagz: [00:15:05] I don’t say this because you’re nerdy. And that’s not even, it’s nothing about that at all. It’s just because when I. As I started to get to know you, your stories, look at how you run everything. I’m like. You are just on… you’re so on point.
Takia McClendon: [00:15:18] ‘Thank you. I appreciate it.
Gagz: [00:15:19] Totally. That’s why I had this picture of you as a young girl in school.
Just taking notes.
Takia McClendon: [00:15:26] Oh yeah. I was a big note taker. I’m a big reader and those things have. Just been that’s just me and I’ve always been this way. Yeah. I’m a Central answer. So there’s any Central folks on, listening to the podcasts.
Gagz: [00:15:38] We’ll be starting there really in September. He just graduated Masterman in grade school in April. He’s in eighth grade now and he’s going to Central.
Takia McClendon: [00:15:46] It probably won’t mean anything to him now, but tell him that I’m class of 265.
Gagz: [00:15:50] He will be listening to this and Leo, you hear that? 265 where. So back in high school, back in college were you involved in running at all or were you part of the track team?
Or were you more involved in clubs? As an organizer
Takia McClendon: [00:16:05] High school. It wasn’t until my senior year. And this is a great story. I joined the cross country team. But I got into some trouble and I couldn’t run cross country. And so I wasn’t able to participate.
Gagz: [00:16:20] You must have turned a library book in late.
Takia McClendon: [00:16:22] I took in the library book late. And so I wasn’t able to participate at cross country. I was like running is dumb. Anyway, I don’t want to ever do this. This was stupid. I was only doing this to get on, in the college. And so that was honestly my experience with running until.
College. I did a 5k just through, I went to Westchester. And so there was like a local 5k. I don’t know if it was for like Habitat for Humanity. I don’t know, but I was a part of a community service organization. So it was just one of our projects. And then I didn’t really run again until after graduation.
And yeah, I wasn’t the athlete in college or high school, you are absolutely right about the clubs. And high school, I think I was like class treasurer, but in college I really just went like super crazy into all the organizations. And so I was like a Senator, I was in charge of a lot of the organizations.
Gagz: [00:17:13] Student government, I would imagine.
Takia McClendon: [00:17:15] Student government, college Democrats. Just anything that you could think of. I had. Like all the local campus jobs, and all the different departments and just really trying to get folks, active on campus. And so I was actually a peer mentor, so I worked with freshmen and incoming students to make sure that their transition to college was nice and easy.
Gagz: [00:17:35] You got your undergrad at Westchester and somewhere in my notes, you had, you were doing your graduate work. You spent time in Rwanda and the graduate program you were in, I believe was international conflict and resolution.
Takia McClendon: [00:17:50] Yeah at Arcadia University
Gagz: [00:17:52] international conflict and resolution
Takia McClendon: [00:17:53] International peace and conflict resolution.
And so before I got all excited about running and fitness I thought I was going to law school.. The plan was after college to go to Arcadia, do IPCR. So international peace and conflict resolution do some traveling. And then I would come back and apply to law school. And so obviously we see how those plans turned out.
Gagz: [00:18:16] Right? Has a way of just getting in the way, quite frankly. So you’re over in Rwanda. What was your experience like there and why were you. What part of your studies took you
Takia McClendon: [00:18:28] in this program that we were in, we were looking into conflict zones or any country that had. Serious conflict breakout, but then maybe say 15 to 20 or 30 years from the time that we were in the program, which seems like such a long time ago now.
But we were in Kigali, which is the capital city there. And so I’m not sure. I, when I explained this, I ask people, have they seen the movie Hotel Rwanda? Okay. That’s why we were there. So we were there to pretty much just observe to see how the people in Rwanda Moved on, or if they moved on from the trauma and all the fighting that had happened there it was quite the experience.
So we, that wasn’t actually the only place that we traveled, we did. Ireland. So I’m not sure if you’re familiar with some of the conflict that’s happened in Northern Ireland. Also Costa Rica, there was a big case going on with the electric company. They were looking to move a indigenous group from their lands.
And so anything that had to do with. Peacekeeping, negotiation and conflict resolution. That’s what we were studying. And because it was on the international level, they wanted us to have actual experience with those kinds of case studies so that we can actually get on the ground and talk to people and, learn from them, because there’s one thing to just read about conflict in a book, but to actually be on the ground, talking to people who lived through these experiences. It’s a, it changes everything. It changes everything.
Gagz: [00:19:53] At that time. Is it fair to say, you’re going to come back. You’re going to go to law school. You’re certainly going to practice law. I could see you running for some kind of office.
Takia McClendon: [00:20:01] I thought I was going to be Secretary of State. That was the ultimate goal. Again, you’re laughing.
I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing
Gagz: [00:20:09] because I see it. I’m not laughing because it’s not possible.
Hell no. Hell no.
No, I know.
Takia McClendon: [00:20:13] I know I’m messing with you. But no, that was the plan and When I was at Arcadia, most, most of my research was on food insecurity. And so trying to figure out what were the policies? So I was more interested in, trade policies, farming policies, and why is the Apple of this price here and in this country it’s not, and what are the countries who are getting products and produce from America? What do those trade policies look like? And so I was. Very much like bigger picture, what role does the United States have in, if we’re talking about a conflict zone, most people are thinking about, the war between two, two groups of people.
I was looking at it from the perspective not to ignore the importance and, What was going on in their homes, but also, all right, you have a lot of folks who are being displaced, how are they being fed? What, if this group has been cut off because the other group said that they can’t use the road anymore, how are they getting food delivered to them?
And so that’s what most of my research, that’s what I intended my research to be. When you’re doing that kind of work, you start, you do a Google search and you type in, food insecurity and low income communities. And you’re not getting international search results.
Gagz: [00:21:20] You’re not going Kigali, Rwanda.
Takia McClendon: [00:21:23] nice town. It was, a lot of places that were close by. And it sounds ridiculous now to say, I was fresh out of undergrad. And I didn’t really realize just like how big of an issue this was in Philadelphia. And so as any millennial would do, I started a food blog that was not about recipes.
It was about food policy in Philadelphia. And we did a rating of a grocery store in Philly. And so w the concept of the blog was. Is your grocery store. Does it matter if your grocery store is in a low income neighborhood, is the quality of the food and service there different than it would be if you were in a suburban neighborhood.
Gagz: [00:22:03] I’ll say, yes.
Takia McClendon: [00:22:04] so that’s what we were –
Gagz: [00:22:05] Dramatically so.
Takia McClendon: [00:22:06] We set up a scale. Of how we would measure this. And we did, I’m not going to say the grocery store, but we did a blog post on a specific grocery store. The owner of said grocery store found the blog and sent me an email. And he’s Hey, I saw that you had this really bad experience at my store.
I would like to bring you in and see if you’d like, if you’d be interested to talk to me, the management team and just some folks who are involved in making sure that our stores function well. And we also want to show you this new concept that we’re working on, because we think that what we’re building will be the future of what a grocery store should look like in all communities.
Gagz: [00:22:45] Wow.
Takia McClendon: [00:22:45] I was like, all no, I’m into this. I’m happy to have this conversation. And I get there, we get to the grocery store, we talk about our experience and then they just this is what we have planned together. They’re talking about, all these stories that they’re going to be opening up.
All the jobs that they’re going to be offering, low-income neighborhoods and just neighborhoods that are underserved from grocery stores in general. And I don’t know if it was that meeting, but I ended up with a job.
Gagz: [00:23:12] Yeah. Cause in my research, somewhere along the line, you started working at a supermarket and that’s how you got the job.
That’s how I got the
Takia McClendon: [00:23:19] job.
Gagz: [00:23:19] I didn’t know that.
Takia McClendon: [00:23:20] That’s how I got the job. And so yeah, I had no interest in working at a grocery store, I was interested in researching grocery stores. But they were interested in having me.
Here, I thought you
Gagz: [00:23:29] were just like going to college, working in a grocery store and you had this idea about food insecurity.
Takia McClendon: [00:23:35] So I got that job and was fast tracked. So I had to learn how to use the register, how to, remove money, how to manage people. Everything was just like, I think all this happened in four weeks, and then
Gagz: [00:23:49] you literally, wrote a blog and because of that blog action was taken and you were the one responsible for the action.
Like you now have input over this. That’s pretty wild.
Takia McClendon: [00:23:58] is why that is a Testament to people. Listen, if you have something to say, be respectful, but you can say it, you just never really know. What’s going to come from it. So that’s great to kill you. Yeah. So I did that come to find out grocery store industry, not for me.
Okay. So I worked there for about a year and then ended up actually going back to my non-profit job that I was at before the grocery store. But all the while, starting to think about, what my role is, More on the local level. That grocery store job opened up my eyes to a lot of different things.
Then I worked with the food trust, managing some of the outdoor farmer’s markets and the rest is pretty much history. So I transitioned from. The food justice world, more food policy into more health and fitness, just because it was something that was a little bit more interesting, a little bit more on the ground and personal.
And that’s your question?
Yep. Were your parents upset when you told them you were changing career paths? No,
not at all. They were okay with it. Yeah. My mom thinks that I’m like a rock star. So if today, yeah, if I said, I’m mom. I’m done with fitness, I’m going to do XYZ. She’s going to be like why, but, she trusts that when I make decisions, I don’t just make them for no reason.
So yeah, no, she was not upset. No one was upset.
Gagz: [00:25:17] And did you know to Kiera at this time also? You guys were always friends or your lifetime friends?
We met in college
Takia McClendon: [00:25:23] actually. Student government. So when I was on one of the Senate committees in college that she served on. And so that’s how we met.
Gagz: [00:25:31] Okay, cool. So now you’ve changed paths, right? You’ve had this moment now where you’re like, you know what, now I’m really going. Yes. I was thinking globally. Now I’m going to act locally. What was the spark that brought you in Kiera? You guys are already friends, but what was the.
The impetus or the Genesis story, the City Fit Girls. Because when I first started running I had already known about you guys, which is, and I was, I just started going to the YMCA at the time. And I had already just heard about you. So whenever you start it, like it was,
Takia McClendon: [00:26:05] we had no idea that we were starting City Fit Girls, and Kiera was actually on a personal health journey of her own. And so I was like, all right, I know a little bit about this food thing since, like working in a grocery store, we had access to all these like healthy eating workshops. And so I was like, obviously I’m not a dietician or a expert, but I was like, I think I can help you put together some healthy meals.
Gagz: [00:26:28] So you’re more, just more like an accountability buddy.
Takia McClendon: [00:26:31] Exactly. Yeah. Let’s go with that. Okay. So we, are making these healthy meals, I’m going to work out. So an art museum steps, and this is also at the same time where Instagram starts to become a little bit more mainstream. And so we’re just posting our pictures of our workouts, and at that time we got 200 followers.
It’s half my friends and family and the other half of people that I went to college, it’s not like this thing where. We got all these followers who are interested in City Fi
Gagz: [00:26:58] None of that stuff.
Takia McClendon: [00:26:59] Back then it was just pictures, ugly filters. . But no, and so we just start posting about our workouts and people would messages like, Hey I’m interested. Like how do I get involved? How do I come out to this workout? I know we’re like, I don’t know, just show up, so we actually started with our group workouts on the art museum steps.
Saturdays, Sundays completely free.
Gagz: [00:27:25] And at that time, was it a set time or was it just it was just you and Kiera posting your workouts. People started to chime in. And at what point was it like, all right, listen, if you want to come join us, you can meet us on the steps at Wednesday or Saturday morning or whenever
Takia McClendon: [00:27:39] So shortly after once we realized that people We’re interested in what we were doing. We were both people who are like, all right, how do we get more folks involved? How would we, how do we help more people? Yeah.
Gagz: [00:27:49] Did you at all have this and do you at all now, I don’t wanna say suffer from, but are you plagued by, or have you ever been plagued by impostor syndrome?
Takia McClendon: [00:27:58] Oh my God. Yes.
Gagz: [00:28:00] Where it’s you’re just doing your thing and now people are coming at you and it’s
Takia McClendon: [00:28:02] I’ll tell you what I would say less. Then the now and now we actually are certified and qualified to do this work. But back then, it’s one of those things where you don’t know what you don’t know.
So we’re inviting people out and you’re like, yeah, come on out, come work out with us. And then, at some point Kiera was like, I think I should get a certification or learn CPR. Some people out here, first aid, we got people. Yeah. Okay. Working out with us and we’re just like, just making it up.
And so Kira actually. Got her personal trainer certification.
Gagz: [00:28:33] So she was first?
Takia McClendon: [00:28:37] Yep. Kiera is actually, she quit. Her job once to spend all her time focusing on building a City Fit Girls for awhile while I was working. So yeah, she, she doesn’t get a lot of credit or, these conversations for that stuff, but yeah, she was first and so she was hosting boot camps.
We were doing classes in Germantown and then we were also doing classes at the art museum steps. I at the same time, it was like, okay. Like bootcamps are fun, but I’m interested in this running thing we had did a 5k run for the, it was like the Hunger Run. And so it’s like a fundraiser.
And it was my first like 5k as an adult. So cause after college, after high school and I’m like, I think I want to do this. I’m going to train for it and it’s on the drive. So it’s the same, at the time I didn’t realize that everyone had, did all their races there, I was like, I’m excited.
It’s at the art museum. And coming up and getting to like the finish line and having all those strangers are like cheering for me. And I was just like, wait, what? You can do this. Like people show up on weekends and you can get cheers from strangers. And feel this good? Just sign me up. And so that was in March 2013 and then our run club had started in September. And so we were still going strong with the bootcamps that was still like our primary focus. And I said, Kiera, I think I want to start a run club. And again, it’s one of those things. I have no idea what it takes to start a run club. I just went on Instagram and posted a picture that I made up.
Gagz: [00:30:03] But you knew, but you had enough wherewithal value when you knew that it was going to be, you just knew it was going to tie in.
Takia McClendon: [00:30:08] I knew, yeah. I was like this. I thought I was like this should probably work. What if people like, decide that they don’t want to go to bootcamp anymore because they want to come to run club.
That’s what we were worried about. And I was like, you know what? I think that there are people who just might not like bootcamp who like running .
And then I’m like What we’ll do is in the future, we won’t offer bootcamp on Wednesdays. Let’s do it on a different day.
And that way we can start building this community where people run on this day of the week and they come do the workouts on another day.
Gagz: [00:30:36] And timing is everything Takia because at that time, and I said this before on the podcast, it was very much the, what I’m going to call the honeymoon of running in philadelphia.
Takia McClendon: [00:30:45] Oh my God.
Gagz: [00:30:46] It was like 2013, 2014, 2015 Run 215 was in full effect.
Takia McClendon: [00:30:53] It was a whole thing.
Gagz: [00:30:54] It truly was a whole thing. It was a whole thing. Rockstars were born from that. And you were certainly one of the people like you were club. One of the people I’d see them all the time.
Takia McClendon: [00:31:04] It was incredible. If you would’ve told me and, even 2010, when I graduated from college that, in just four years, that’s what I would be doing. Like I would there’s no way. Cause remember I had, I decided that running was stupid, in high school.
It was like, I’m not going to be a runner. I was planning on being that in some foreign country, doing work on the ground. And so this was just way out of anything that I’ve could have ever imagined. And I actually didn’t even, I didn’t know anything about running. I didn’t know anything.
I didn’t even know that run clubs were an actual thing until maybe a couple of weeks before that, because I went to a group, run a run and had an experience that is, was actually the thing that made me decide that I wanted to start.
Gagz: [00:31:44] I was going to ask you about that so go ahead.
Takia McClendon: [00:31:46] So I went to a group run.
And I, they said that.
Gagz: [00:31:52] Not gonna say who.
Takia McClendon: [00:31:53] I went to a group run though. And they said, this all levels, anybody can show up, it’s going to be a good time. And I’m nervous because it was my first time doing anything without City Fit Girls. And so I was used to, having our group with me at all times when it came to anything like social fitness.
And I was going out on my own. Went to this group. And, I was living in West Oak Lane, I believe at the time. And, oh no, we were in Germantown and I, we were running the drive we were running on the trail. It was beautiful. But that was it for me. And city run through Center City at the time, it was just like, what is this?
And so we’re running sound like I don’t like, Oh my God, what is all this? And We ended up on Columbus Boulevard, which I know what it is now, but at the time I’m just like, Oh, on this street, I don’t know what the thing is. It’s like all this construction going on around, and it’s just me and this other girl, I don’t know where she is now, but, and we’re just like, man, this is awful.
They told us that, we weren’t going to get left. It started getting dark. So we’re just like, we don’t know how to get back. We didn’t have. GPS watches or anything like that. And we had our phones. And so obviously, you could get back, but we were just like, man, this kind of is this how this normally is?
And so luckily someone from the group had came back to, find us. And so we ended up at the location that the group run was ending at. And I was like, man, is this it like, is this what it’s supposed to be like? And obviously no, because when we get to the bar, wherever it was, we see all these folks who had already gotten there, they having a good time there, drinking and socializing.
I was just like, man, I missed it. And so
Gagz: [00:33:27] that was your first experience. And I need to say this too, for people at home too, by and large, the vast majority of clubs , if they were like that, there’s a lot of them aren’t like that. There’s some listen, if you’re going to try to go out with them alumni track club, all right, then they’re going to leave you in the dust.
But typically speaking more of your neighborhood clubs, very open, very accepting. We had David April on here last season, talking about the Fishtown Beer Runners. And that principle. But obviously this wasn’t one of those clubs
Takia McClendon: [00:33:57] Also, that was 2013. And so even still
Gagz: [00:33:59] Etiquette was still was still coming into play.
Takia McClendon: [00:34:01] Exactly. And so it’s one thing to say that this is a, group run for all levels, at the time we were still like, what’s all levels, it’s I was a newer runner and I just didn’t have the experience to really understand what that even meant. And even when I did get left behind it, I’m like questioning myself.
I’m like, Oh, maybe they meant everybody. It’s it was quite the experience, the people who actually led that run.
Gagz: [00:34:22] But so now when you start your own club, you have that you obviously have this experience in your back pocket. You know what that’s like? So obviously one of the very first things, one of your first missions was no runner left behind.
Takia McClendon: [00:34:35] And that was like our rule number one is just that it doesn’t matter, how fast or slow, you want to run.
Gagz: [00:34:41] All paces, all faces.
Takia McClendon: [00:34:42] All paces, all faces. We, it was just me at first cause remember Kiera’s like teaching bootcamp classes. And we’re leading these group runs, we don’t really have any idea what we’re doing.
We did the same route probably for about eight months,
Gagz: [00:34:56] but they kept coming back though.
Takia McClendon: [00:34:57] But we ran up the Parkway around the art museum. So starting at Dilworth park. Yeah. And this is actually when City Hall had just been remodeled, so there was actually no programming or anything going on there.
And so yeah, we started at City Hall off the Parkway, around the museum back down the Parkway, and that was it. And then they started doing construction on the Parkway and people are like, yeah, Takia, you think we could go somewhere else, but I was so worried about safety, like the idea. I was like there’s lights here.
So if people start to stagger, there’s always an opportunity for people to catch up. And I had to think of. What other routes can we take to make sure that some of those same principles apply? And so no runner left behind is obviously like our guiding principle. We have group run leaders who also know that’s the mission, but it’s also built into every route that we run.
And so we try to make sure that, it doesn’t matter where we’re running. We just really want this to be a thing to be a place that people can come, even if they’re running, it doesn’t matter if you’re a seven minute mile or 15 minute miler, I don’t want you to. Ever actually experience, you know what I experienced.
Gagz: [00:36:01] So City Fit Girls is happening.
Takia McClendon: [00:36:04] Yeah. it’s happening? Where are we? 20? Let’s go. We’re in 2014.
Gagz: [00:36:07] So what year did you decide that, that you’re going to go ahead and get your certification because the USA TF running certification, that’s like real deal. All of the certifications are real deal.
I should say this. Like they’re about as top of the line is. You can get, when did you decide to make that decision?
Takia McClendon: [00:36:24] So that was in 2016.
Gagz: [00:36:26] And what formed that was that when you started working at Philly Runner about
Takia McClendon: [00:36:31] So we skipped over a little bit. So where if we’re ending that. Part of the story of 2014 that was in September, I start working at Philly Runner in that November. So my first day at work was actually like the day of the Philly marathon at Philly runner. And so I. That was my first day. That was my first real day. Do you know? My first training day was like all the days where people come in and they’re like, ah, I’ve got the marathon next week.
And I didn’t get running shoes. I’m like the new girl who just started the running club two months ago. I’m like talking to marathoners about their running shoes. But everybody. On the staff were super supportive. And it wasn’t, yeah, it wasn’t like a place where if I didn’t know the answer, I couldn’t ask somebody else, but what an awesome experience.
So just having that’d be my training week. My first real day was a marathon. It’s actually the most quiet day at Philly Runner. So if you ever want to get running shoes without people around come one marathon But it was great. And so I was doing that since 2014, November, 2014. And then so doing City Fit Girls and Philly Runner, I started to realize that I’m actually I’m into this, this running thing is really cool.
I’m into it for myself. When you talk to, dozens of runners every single day you realize that people are coming in with a load of different problems. You start to see patterns and you want to figure out the answers. And I’m a problem solver. And so I also just want it to be a better.
Better leader for city fit girls. And, we all know that to lead a group run, you don’t need a running coach certification, you just need to be excited about running. But I wanted to, do a little bit more on the training side. So the track workouts, offer training programs.
Gagz: [00:38:11] Explain why that is Takia. Why is that so important? Not just to focus on just the running aspect of having a run club or of being a runner. Cause what’s the one thing that is. I’ll let you say, I know you see it all the time.
Takia McClendon: [00:38:24] I listen. So when working at Philly Runner, and so that was every day, right?
I’m hearing the same things from people. I’m injured. I want to run faster, but my times aren’t getting better. You hear a lot of different scenarios from different the same scenario from different people, at the time I’m just reading like some of the more popular running books and.
And I wasn’t really getting all the answers I was looking for. I was getting enough that I can help somebody navigate buying a new running shoe, again, I’m a problem solver, so it’s just I want to be able to, if someone comes in and I’m the person fitting them for shoes, I want them to leave feeling like they just had a meeting with a run coach and take it from there.
And I wanted to make sure that everybody had access to the same type of training runs that you were just talking about. If you alumni track club, whoever, you see those folks out training, they’re on the track, they’re doing repeats. And obviously what we’re trying to do is not replicate what those workouts or what they’re doing, but again, just expose people like, Hey, I heard you say you want it to try to improve your 5k time.
You can’t do that. Just running. With us every Wednesday, because we’re doing an easy run. You got to learn how to run faster. And we just wanted to make sure that people had that opportunity to do that in a place that they didn’t have to just go and try to guess.
Gagz: [00:39:41] I think that’s so cool about, City Fit Girls, is that if someone in your club doesn’t have the means to do it or doesn’t have the equipment or doesn’t know where to go, your organization will connect them with somebody that can help
Takia McClendon: [00:39:52] Yeah. Yep. Always awesome. Philly runner was. Always super helpful with that. The connections that I made there are just like, like out of this world. And so we were able to even with programs like fit retreat, which is our women’s retreat. So one technically one and a half day event. If someone can’t afford a ticket to that, it’s covered, if someone can’t afford, running shoes or the proper footwear, we can work within some of the partners that we have to make sure that people have access to the equipment.
Accessibility. It’s just it’s super important. When you want to talk about leveling the playing field here
Gagz: [00:40:25] And during this time. Now this is when you’re starting to see Whoa, I think I got something here. Like I feel good about myself. I have I have a plan now I have a mission. You are helping yourself.
You’re helping other people around you. You’re entrenched more and more in the running world. And I’ll be honest with, one of the reasons why I’m having you on this podcast today. As a special thing, when I was doing my research on you and I came across this I forget if it was a quote or something that you had written, but you would said essentially, if I can get a neighborhood, people in the neighborhood to run one mile, three times a week, That will have a positive effect on the trajectory of their life.
I read that I’m like, damn, I got to get her in here right away. So at what point did that seed in your brain start taking place while at Philly runner?
Takia McClendon: [00:41:16] Probably around 2017, 2018.
Gagz: [00:41:20] And that’s when we really started thinking,
I can do this.
Takia McClendon: [00:41:22] That’s when I started to think. Not just as a group run leader, but as a coach.
Because I started to realize that even when folks have – you start to see people who are interested in running, because they want to run, races are very different from people, who are just running because of this thing feels good, right? This is just like something that they do for their mental health.
This is just something that they do to keep their heart rate up, and I started to learn more and more about the health benefits. Cause I hadn’t even, we were running, it was like, Oh, cardio, whatever. But I didn’t really understand like how running really impacted the body.
From what I knew really about running is okay, it’s something that people do. You run the Broad Street Run, you hurt your knees and that’s it. And so it’s no, it doesn’t have to be that. And when I started to realize the impact that it was having on my health and, the impact that was having on the health of the women in our group, it’s like I don’t think that this should just be limited to us, like why can’t other people experience this?
And so that’s when I started to get the idea, it’s like, all right, Obviously, it’s a very optimistic goal. And so every time I hear it, like I said, that I think I did write it somewhere. And it is what drives me, you can’t really, we can’t make that happen until we address some other issues that are happening with, within our communities within running.
And just like policy and city government in general. And I’ve made it my mission to not just focus on this from the running aspect, but also to make sure that we’re having these conversations about the policies that, what impact why isn’t this something that can easily be done?
There’s a lot of people who don’t have the luxury to walk out their door and run that one mile that we’re talking about. And in my dream world that can happen.
Gagz: [00:43:07] It can happen.
Takia McClendon: [00:43:07] It can happen in my dream world, at least.
Gagz: [00:43:09] It doesn’t need to be a dream world. And I think surely, your summary that I think you’re the kind of person that I really have a lot of respect for Takia because you just put your mind to it and, you can almost manifest it.
That’s such a power. Like to think I have it to use that you certainly have it. And I think it’s such a. I gravitate towards people like that, yeah.
Takia McClendon: [00:43:30] So thank you. I appreciate it.
Gagz: [00:43:31] Totally. So let me ask you a question now. All right. Let’s just fast forward just to just a minute, because you was, you started to touch on what we’re going to talk about now, but before we did that, or before we do that, rather Know, back in February of 2020, this is after seven years working.
At Philly Runner? Six plus years?
I don’t know.Takia McClendon: [00:43:51] Yeah. 2014
Gagz: [00:43:52] okay. And you were heavily involved there too.
Takia McClendon: [00:43:54] Oh man. Yeah. So I had started at Philly Runner. I was working the floor. I was fitting people for shoes. I think maybe two or three months later.
They made me one of the assistant managers at the downtown store. And so for folks who are, yeah, if our folks who live in Philly, this all makes sense. And for your listeners who are not in Philly, I’m sorry. But then I know. And so there was a store on, there is a store at University of Pennsylvania’s campus.
And after I believe a year to work in Center City, I actually moved to the Penn store to manage that store. And I was there for a couple of years and then I started to do the apparel buying. And so I was everywhere. And so yes, I was very much so entrenched in this company. And it was like essentially my life, I’ll wake up, go to the store.
Leave the store and go to the run club, and so it was just all running. I’m one of those people though, who gets bored with things, I’m like, what’s the next big idea? What can I be doing to help more people
Gagz: [00:44:53] NOw, let’s now let’s look at City Fit Girls, there’s been many iterations of this club over the years.
And, while you’re deep in Philly roaring that’s about 2016, 2017, if I’m not mistaken in my research here, I think this is really when City Fit Girls started to take stock of Holy shit, we got something big here. This is more than, about running. Like now you can start to see that, that thing that you talked about shaping people’s lives and like having that trajectory it’s coming into play now.
So 2017 Trump takes office, Alison Dizzier and Mary Arnold, who we both know they did the run coming from Harlem right down Philadelphia. I helped Mary. I’ll tell the story super quick. Cause I’ll probably cause it, cause I will mention Alison later on in our conversation when Mary and Alison and the girls in the gang were coming from New York to Philadelphia my job was to meet Mary in Bristol.
And so I met Mary and the two Mercedes, these teddies super decked out touring bands. It was awesome. And it was like a super cold day. So I went up there and then I met them with like soup. So I had like hot chicken broth. I had all these, I had like salt and sweet teeth, like I’m sorry, salty snacks, sweet snacks.
And there’s chicken broth. And it was cold as hell. And I found out where their vans were. Now, I didn’t know this at the time they were receiving death threats and they crossed into Pennsylvania, like from Jersey through whatever. I think they were on the Delaware canal path coming through Bristol. They were getting death threats.
I didn’t know this. So I come walk up to the van I had this like it really cold. Have my hood up. I’m dressed in all black as I am now. The beards out. And everyone in the van starts panicking they don’t know who the hell is this dude coming up here and finally Mary. Oh no, it’s guys. This guy just got no, it’s cool.
It’s cool. So that was the first time I met Alison and her husband was during that whole run, but that was back in January, 2017. And that was the first time you met Alison
and she left him a mark on both of us were here four years later talking about.
Takia McClendon: [00:46:53] Absolutely. And so the funny thing about run for all women this was also at the time when, like you said, so 2016 City Fit Girls is, we’re starting to realize what we have here, right?
This is something that’s bigger than what we ever imagined it to be. What do we do with this platform? That we have a voice in this, this industry. I’m a coach Kiera is a personal trainer. And so it’s just what else can we be doing? And so when I first learned about.
The run, I believe at this time it wasn’t like a group thing yet. It was just supposed to be the full.
Gagz: [00:47:27] And they were trying to make, maybe make $10,000. I think that’s something crazy.
Takia McClendon: [00:47:30] Yeah. And Oh that’s really cool. Because I had, I was following Harlem run because I was following just run clubs from all over And so I was familiar with Alison and the work that she was doing, but, I, it was just something that I was like, Oh, we can cheer this on from, the sidelines.
And I was like, yeah, maybe I’ll post about it. And I was like, but at the time, I’m like, I don’t know. Do we post about election stuff? Maybe not. I don’t know. And it’s so funny to look at, look back now because it’s yeah, that night. Seeing, the groups and seeing how everybody came out to support them and to run with them.
And it was incredible for me. That’s when we were just like, you know what, yeah, we’re gonna, we’re gonna be talking about politics a lot more. But I needed to, at the time it just, wasn’t something that I was super comfortable with. I worked at Philly Runner. I was always afraid of rocking the boat.
I’m a person who. I want to make sure that everybody’s happy and, I would, we would send out our newsletters and make sure that everybody was on the same page about inclusivity, but, we were like one of those groups who were like, Oh, maybe we should leave politics out of it.
And it’s just it’s ridiculous to think that now. And it’s one of those things I’m so happy that, I was able to grow and seeing the run for all women definitely was one of the more like. Catapulting. Definitely.
Gagz: [00:48:42] Definitely changed how I look at running too
Takia McClendon: [00:48:45] What it can’t be done. It’s incredible. And so I’ll never forget that experience
Gagz: [00:48:48] cause I know like when I met, like when we, cause it was just me and Mary for awhile and then we ran through Northeast Philly and then we met more people and ran through. So then we came through like Fishtown and all that gathered more people.
Yeah. Oh, it must have been at least a hundred. Some people wanting in our pack when there was 200 people waiting, so as we coming up the street, we heard the cheers, like two blocks away. It was I’ll never forget that night.
Takia McClendon: [00:49:14] I’ll never forget. And I go home and I’m just like, wow here we have this thing.
I was a political science major. I’m involved in activism outside of City Fit Girls. And we’re already building up like, we’re upset about the election results, we’re trying to figure out what we can do about it. And we have this platform and. Honestly Run for all Women.
For me personally, it was like, when I realized that, Hey, I can be as loud as I want to be with this thing, because it’s our thing, we can talk about whatever it is that we want to talk about. And if we upset people, it’s just going to be one of those things that happens and it does happen. It does happen.
We get some emails from time to time from people. Who were just like, I’m only here because I want your running information. I don’t want to hear about your politics and I’m just like, I’m so happy you get to separate the two because I can’t.
It’s definitely a privilege.
Exactly. It’s I can’t separate politics from running.
And so it is something that I’m going to be talking about. And it’s something that we’re going to talk about a lot. So if you don’t like it, you can unsubscribe, that’s the best that we can offer
Gagz: [00:50:15] now in my sport alone in ultra running It kinda it bothers me in the sense that it’s, it is a very white sport.
There’s no other, there’s no getting around it. It’s not because there’s a racist or a racist bunch of people, right? Absolutely not. I think the showrunners and like runners in general are pre-approved nice people. Then you start doing it in the ultra world. And the trail runner is, and it’s you talk about being at a grateful dead concert.
There’s just straight up hippies out there. It’s, it’s a very inclusive thing, but it is Lily white. And when I look at this, it’s if ultra running is on the fringe of running. Yep. All right. So let’s take a look at who’s fun. Who’s being funneled into the ultra running world.
Who’s coming in the runners. So then need, we take a look at why there’s so few runners of color doing my sport. There are so few runners of color doing regular launch because no one’s born in an ultra nobody wakes up and just starts running more than
It takes time. So before an ultra runner. You are a runner.
And if we’re going to have this conversation, I feel it’s very important that we have this. If we’re going to say, Hey, how can we be more inclusive? How can the running world have more people of color? Not just. Running races, planning, races, planning, running a shoe store, being the purchase buyer for the
If we’re going to have the real talk, if it’s going to be, it’s not just about, it’s not as simple as getting on a pair of shoes, put on a pair of shoes and going out and doing your thing.
Takia McClendon: [00:51:46] I wish.
Gagz: [00:51:47] No. So if we’re going to have that conversation, I think it’s important for us to discuss. The history of not just running, you can’t have that conversation.
You have to talk about the history of America.
Takia McClendon: [00:51:59] Yeah, absolutely. And
Gagz: [00:52:01] when you were nominated, when you were named as one of the top 15, most influential people of color in the health and fitness industry here in Philadelphia I believe back in mid may, if I’m not mistaken, maybe The piece that was written about you, there was a link about a history.
This is a brief narrative about the history, very brief, but I think we should talk about that because that will help frame our conversation as we move.
Takia McClendon: [00:52:24] Yeah. I think it’s a super, it’s an important piece. I was actually, I got an email from Someone in the running and fitness community here in Philly.
And she sent me a message and she’s This is right around the time george Floyd was murdered and she’s I want to do better. I want to understand what’s happening. And, we can get into the politics of, should you be asking me to do this work for you?
And I’m a teacher, right? Like I’m an educator, my minor was an African-American history. And I have friends who would not take the time to do this and I respect their decision to do and so I don’t want White people just going out, asking Black people for these answers.
That’s why I’m trying to put this message across. But no, I was interested in answering this question because I wanted her to understand the things that I understood and how we got to this point.
Gagz: [00:53:12] Because when I try to have this conversation with people who look like me, some people, yeah, they don’t get it.
Takia McClendon: [00:53:17] They don’t get it. Of course.
Gagz: [00:53:19] I don’t know.
Takia McClendon: [00:53:19] It’s a lot. It’s a lot. And so the it’s the brief history of African-Americans. I think that’s what I called it. It was actually an email. It was just a response to her email. And so her email might’ve come in like maybe four or five sentences.
And so that essay that you see on medium is what I sent her back. And I’m looking at it. I was like, man, this is, I think that if this was impactful for her, I want to put this out there. And so I just made it into a blog post and people received it very well. And so the piece just goes over how.
And again very briefly you can get into a lot of the nuances,
Gagz: [00:53:59] just like your blog posts for City Fit Girls, which I love, because they’re so concise. They’re so on point, even with this right here, you’re making, I, I’ll say broad generalizations in the interest of time.
Takia McClendon: [00:54:09] Exactly. And an interesting time. It’s it’s a survey.
Gagz: [00:54:11] But then you’re also saying. But if you’re more interested, you can go read the real thing. Go watch this video, go learn about reconstruction. Go learn about Jim Crow. And so you heard about dudes coming home from the, dudes coming home from world war II promised on the GI that Mo
Takia McClendon: [00:54:27] Yeah, no let’s talk about it. They’re getting promises but they’re not being met, so when those guys came home from the military, if we’re talking about the. Politics of running, you have these folks coming home, world war II, and they have access to the GI bill and you have Black men and women who did not get that same access because the GI bill.
And so when we’re talking about a gap in education access, That’s red flag number one. We also had red lining at the same time. And so you have these service members coming home who could not get access to the same houses that, White people were getting access to when they came home from war.
And so there were just a lot of things that went into. The development of neighborhoods.
Gagz: [00:55:08] I was explaining this to my kids last night at dinner, we were having dinner and talking about the podcast today and we’re explaining it, I’m talking to them about justice. They’re like how can these guys, like, how can these guys go fight for our country and then come home.
And they’re promised that they’re there, that they’re going to get money. And the government did promise the money issue though, is that the governors, it was left in the governor’s hands over house.
Takia McClendon: [00:55:29] But how to distribute the money.
Gagz: [00:55:31] This, and this is why I mentioned my kids.
We used to have chickens before we moved to our new house in Somerton and chickens and city of Philadelphia are illegal. All right. Unless you have, and here’s the thing back in 2004, Councilman, O’Neill up in the Northeast for whatever reason. No one knows that his day, why he went on an anti chicken crusade made chickens illegal and city of Philadelphia.
Yes. With one provision, you must have three acres of land. If you have three acres of land, then you can have chickens. City of Philadelphia, you can’t have three acres of land. It’s pretty difficult to have three acres of land. So it’s kind the same thing. Yeah. They would promise the guys come from more okay, you can have the money for the house or for the referral or for college or whatever.
But yeah, there’s all these little
Takia McClendon: [00:56:16] that just people, black people specifically at the time just didn’t have access to.
Gagz: [00:56:21] Now. I don’t mean to trivialize civil rights and chicken rights, but in terms of bringing it down from my kids,
Takia McClendon: [00:56:27] I do think that’s a fair, that’s a fair point, even. Even still, that same logic we’re talking about in Philadelphia.
I don’t know how many people, want to own chickens, who has a couple of when you said that? I was like, Oh, I know a place that has chickens, but they have three acres of land. It’s just who has access to three acres of land in Philadelphia? And so now if you want to get into this, and who has, Yeah, these are the kinds of laws though, that are put into place that impact people of color mostly. And so again, if you want to take that back to running politics right now, you have a entire generation of people who don’t have the same access to education or the same access to housing.
They have children, they’re probably your age now and they have children, and so it’s just This thing that you’re not starting, people love to say this is, in America, everybody has an equal opportunity. That’s just not true. That’s not true. Exactly. And so if we’re talking about what does a neighborhood look like?
Gagz: [00:57:23] That’s why I referenced the GI bill, because you had guys coming home from the war, they were able to leave the city. You get a little piece of land, go out to Levittown or go out to one of these developments. Suburban developments that were exclusively White.
Takia McClendon: [00:57:37] Yep. And when people say, Oh, running isn’t political.
It’s of course it is because where do you get to run versus where do I get to run?
Gagz: [00:57:45] He had this Exodus of white people moving out of the city to go to the suburbs. You have the, beginnings of the housing projects here.
Takia McClendon: [00:57:55] Housing projects. You have the highway act like, there, there’s so many policies that had gone into place that literally shape our world today.
And it’s so interesting to hear people, I don’t know if they’re dismissing it intentionally or if it’s just a lack of information.
Gagz: [00:58:12] I think it’s a lack of information. And I also I think it’s just, this is too much. Yeah. For some people it’s just too much.
Takia McClendon: [00:58:17] And so they’ll just avoid it instead of, actually taking the time to understand it, but these things matter.
And so my vision where somebody can walk out their door and run that one mile three days a week, we can’t. Do that realistically, until we say, okay, everyone has, safe streets where they can actually go outside their door where, there’s lighting. If you work a job from eight to five, and that’s the only time where, you got daylight, you need to make sure that there are lights on at 5:00 AM or at night so that you can go for a run.
Some of our parks and recreation centers don’t have. The dollars to even make that a reality unless it’s football season.
That’s why where City Fit Girls comesGagz: [00:58:56] in. That’s why I love it.
Yeah. And so that’s-
there and you are are the connector for that.
Takia McClendon: [00:59:01] That’s our plan with our Strides.
And I think we’re pretty far off from being able to see, someone come out their house and be able to run that one mile three days a week and have that impact on their health. But I think we can do it. I think it’s not something that’s going to be attainable within the next five years, but.
Imagine if we get just 100 people through this program. And, they pass those habits on and you they get their friends involved. I do think that eventually it can have that kind of impact that I’m talking about
Gagz: [00:59:29] 70 stick with it, of those 70, they’re going to pass it on to a two, two and to another hundred. Those 70 we’ll keep it. And that’s how it goes.
Takia McClendon: [00:59:37] And we’re actually going to be employing community coaches, which I’m really excited about. And some of that $10,000 is actually allocated to train. So if there’s someone who’s super interested in running they’re really active, but they don’t have the coaching certification.
We’ll have the money to pay for that. We’ll have the money to make sure that they’re educated. They can lead someone through a group run, they’ll be able to, talk to their community members about this. And it’s not a stranger coming in and saying, Oh, you need running.
Because running isn’t it. It’s not for everybody.
Gagz: [01:00:06] And definitely not.
It’s not. And so it’s one of those things that, yeah. If you have this person who you already know or recognize in your community and you might say I’m interested. I don’t know if this thing is for me, aren’t you more inclined?
Takia McClendon: [01:00:19] Yes. The person, who, versus if even me showing up in some places, it’s just who is this girl? Thinking that she’s going to come tell us that we need to be runners. This is nonsense right. And that’s not what we want to do. We want to make sure that this is something that, I’m going to give you the coaching platform.
I’m going to make sure that you have the tools that you need to know how not to hurt yourself while you’re out there running. But we really want this to be like a community driven program. And we want to get a lot of people involved and. I think that is just one way to handle some of the issues and the policy things that we’re talking about, but where we need other people to get involved with people like you, people in a lot of the other run clubs around the city, it’s fine.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to show up in nice town and lead a group right now. I need you at city council meetings talking about why some folks don’t have streetlights on. After six o’clock that’s where we need people to show up. We need letter writing campaigns, how come the Schuylkill river trail is upkept.
And, everything is taken care of there, but there are trails and other neighborhoods that don’t have that same quality. That’s where we need people to show up. And when we’re talking about running, being political that’s literally how running is political, and we might not be able to change history.
And all the injustices that has happened what policies like GI bill redlining, but. We can do some more things on the ground now. And again, we can’t erase what happened. No, but we have to acknowledge it. Absolutely. And we have to use what happened to shape the future of not just running in Philadelphia, but just like life and living, for some people running is literally the last thing that they’re thinking, it’s so funny.
We get so worked up, I used to be at the store and I’m just like, people would come in Oh my Nike’s. I was just like,
Gagz: [01:02:00] This going back to Alison for a minute, there’s a reason why she is now the director of sports advocacy for resell. And I don’t think they’re going to be the only company out there too.
Certainly they’re an innovator in that sense. I don’t think that she’s going to be alone in her position. I don’t think so either for much, much longer. And it’s like, why do you need that? was I was trying to explain it to somebody, like, why would they need that? Like why they need that?
What do you mean why? And again, we go back to this conversation. Back in 1966, When, is it a bill Bauer, Oregon, Nike, the whole thing. Yeah. But it was illegal for black people that abandoned the state back in 1910 until 1926.
Takia McClendon: [01:02:39] Yeah. Yeah, so you see me, I’m, though. I don’t want to get worked up because it’s so much, if we’re talking specifically about track and field, believe it was Tuskegee university.
Don’t quote me on this. I don’t want people to get upset, but I believe it was Tuskegee. The women’s track team there, I believe they had a lot of women qualify for the Olympics from that team and they weren’t allowed to race. Like they couldn’t run and represent the country, even though they had won the trials.
And again, Double-check the facts on that story. I’m pretty sure that’s what ended up happening. And, but like this isn’t so far off, like this is someone’s grandparents, you know who we’re talking about. And so these things still impact running today and you, again, you might be privileged enough to not have to think about that.
But it’s real. And when I look at a running magazine and I don’t see anybody who looks like me, that matters. And it might not be something that you understand because it’s not your experience, but it does matter
Gagz: [01:03:37] when you worked for familiar runner, you were at different trade shows, different, yeah. How often were you the only person of color there
Takia McClendon: [01:03:44] most often. Most often. Yeah. And so there’s a really big trade show. That is pretty much like the Mecca of the running. It just went down in Texas, T R E. Okay. There’s thousands of people at this event, mostly store owners and like senior management.
So The buyers, the store manager guys were shaping policy. Exactly. The ones who were like, we’re deciding what happens in running, where we’re the ones at the trade show deciding no, all the shoes will be neon this year. That’s a smaller thing, at the end of the day, these are the people who do get the shape what’s happening in the industry and yeah.
No, there’s no one. I’m not even kidding. I would say I can use a whole hand, but probably just three fingers, count of people of color. And I’m not just black, just people of color, at these events. And this is year after year. This isn’t just like a one-time thing. It’s no, you go there every year.
So there’s just no one.
Gagz: [01:04:33] So when we look about, when I was doing the research for this interview and just all of a sudden, I’ll say, I’ll just say, just for this interview I came across this great article, why running has failed black America written on the heels of Arbery’s law, not the murder of not the murder of robbery, but when his killers were, when the video tape was released.
Yeah, it was first released. It was eyeopening. And. Eyeopening in the sense that it made me realize why indeed there are so few people of color in ultra running, which is crazy because Ted Corbitt is the grandfather of ultra running. And he’s man, he is literally the man. Then we go Goggins, Corey weltering and that’s it.
And then I’ll go for it. And then here’s, and here’s the female list and that’s it. And again, that’s not because we’re out there. Being racist? No, no far.
Takia McClendon: [01:05:23] I think there’s a couple scenarios that come to mind, but I understand. Okay. We will, we won’t say nobody’s out there, but no, for the most part no.
For the most part you’re absolutely right. The ultra running community. I’ve never seen anything like this and it’s not something that I’m actively involved in. I haven’t even run a half marathon is as far as I go Takia,
Gagz: [01:05:45] I had this. This platform now. And I need to, I feel like I have to use this for good.
I would like to have had you on sooner. Some of the stuff that we talked about, I wasn’t ready to have that conversation on the microphone, quite frankly. In my personal life, that’s fine. But having it just like you said, you’re afraid of rocking the boat or if you want people to work with you, I want people to listen to me.
But now it’s okay, I got the ring rust off. Yep. I’m back in this. I have this platform. You are a sensational person. You’re doing sensational work and it’s not just going to be. It’s good for everybody.
Takia McClendon: [01:06:19] It’s good for everybody. It’s good. It’s good for the sport. Yeah, no, it’s just good for everybody.
And I do believe that people are going to be working on their own timelines to, come to these realizations. And again, I’ll put myself out there first. Like I am one of those people, when we first started this one, we didn’t know, we didn’t even know what it was. And thinking that city fit girls could be something that’s looked at as like an advocacy platform or, where I’m more interested in public health than I am about running races.
This isn’t something that we had planned to do. And it did take some time for me to find my voice, and to be able to use it. I found it and to be able to use it in this way. And so I do respect people’s journey. But being on a journey is not an excuse to ignore what is happening, yeah. And that’s really what it comes down to. And yeah. You can be on the journey to learn and try to understand what’s happening. Doesn’t give you the right to say there shouldn’t be a director of advocacy, because you’re just, you don’t understand it yet. And I don’t know if that’s by choice again and again.
I give people benefit of doubt. You got there’s a lot, you got the document in front of you. There’s a lot to go over. We’re talking four to 500 years of history that shaped the policies that we still deal with today. And
Gagz: [01:07:30] Something just as simple as when, like looking at assassinated, the vice president, I believe is Andrew Johnson.
He was from the South, but obviously. The South didn’t like him. So that’s number one. So no one liked your vice to know from the South, like the vice-president and among amongst the North, his policies were all crap. So when he took over, it was everything that Lincoln was trying to do. He, then he set everything back.
Yeah. He was only in office for two years.
Takia McClendon: [01:07:54] But it’s okay, yeah. That’s a whole thing. How do you tell. It’s frustrating,
Gagz: [01:07:59] right? It’s a very complex conversation. So how does that, how does Andrew Johnson become a, vice-president relate to. You know why the shoes are neon right. For the year 21,
Takia McClendon: [01:08:10] People don’t realize like how much of an impact that, that it sucks that still has, on these decisions, but it very much so does matter. And it’s something that I’m going to spend all of mine. Do you know, time working on and, I just think that it can’t be, it can’t just be me and it can’t just be people who look like me.
If you really care about this sport, if you really care about the future of running if you’re tired of just showing up to your ultra runs and everybody looks exactly like you there’s work to be done. There’s work to be done.
Gagz: [01:08:42] I’m here for it. Yeah. I’m gonna start wrapping up things now to key.
Let me ask one quick question on the wrap up before I ask you another question, but if people are interested, if they want to. Learn more about this stuff. Is there anything, is there any books that you might recommend or a certain podcast, a certain movie, maybe an article that was really influential.
Takia McClendon: [01:09:00] I’ll say this go to the medium article in the link in my bio. Okay. And I’ll post it in my bio also. I know. If you go to that and I’m on Instagram at Takia McClendon I’m actually going to be. Updating that piece to include a couple more links that people can use for this kind of research.
So go there. And so instead of me just trying to like think of a bunch of books I’ll list them so that people have access to them. And
Gagz: [01:09:24] this will all be on my Instagram. I’m posting it on my socials. It’ll be in my Linkdin bio. Oh boy. Okay. So basically we’re gonna have them look at the history.
Takia McClendon: [01:09:33] And so all that information will be there. And again, just to make sure that everybody’s on the same page, it is a brief history. And so don’t just read this and think that you’ve done the work. This is literally more of a syllabus. And so it’s just giving you topics that I think are important to understand while we’re at where we
Gagz: [01:09:52] Well said, let me go out on this one question. Last, I was trying to think of the question last season to give guests like a theme and it just never came to fruition. It never panned out. So this year I said, screw it. Let’s just go for it. So the question I’m going to ask my guests, this season wrap up the wrap up each episode is and I’ll say where I got this question from.
Back in October, 2019, the famous goalie for a Italian, for Italy national team Gigi bouffant. I can see you’re you’re you’re like, Oh, you’re like all about this. He is probably like the world’s greatest goalie. He certainly wanted Italy’s greatest goalie ever he put out this piece, it was called A letter to my younger self and basically, and he was, I think he was 42 years old when he wrote that going back and writing a letter to his, I believe 17 or 18 year old self when he was first signed by Juventus back in the day.
Just like a little bit of life advice it’s and then I read that article back in the day and it’s just always stuck with me and something I always think about. So I’m going to ask you Takia. You can go back. All right. I’m not going to give a certain age. I’m just going to say, since there seems to be this theme throughout last season, I’m sure it’s gonna be part of this season too.
That moment when you’re like, you know what, like I’m going to, yeah, I have these ideas, but I’m going to shift on my shift. My I’m going to shift focus of my life at that pivotal point at that apifany moment of your. Of your life. What’s some of the advice you’d go back and tell yourself.
Takia McClendon: [01:11:22] This is a great question.
I would tell myself just to be more kind to myself. And so it’s funny you asked what did my parents think about. Me I’m switching career paths, but you never asked me what I, what my experience was like doing that. And I was very hard on myself cause I grew up
Gagz: [01:11:39] I’m sorry.
Takia McClendon: [01:11:40] No, that’s okay. I grew up, I was like, I’m going to be a lawyer. This is my life. And making that switch and I’m not gonna lie. Like I, I still struggle with it even today. Do you want to just some of the work that you know that I’m doing now, it’s just should I apply to law school?
Gagz: [01:11:52] I
apologize. I thought I just had it in my head. Like you had this idea and you’re like, this makes sense to me and you just boom. Now I realize it was I am,
Takia McClendon: [01:12:01] I think. I think things like, I think I’d have a lot of thoughts. Yes. Thank you. That’s a good way to describe it.
And so I just would have been more kind Just over the course of the years and just allow myself to really immerse myself in this industry earlier. And so we talk a lot about, me leaving Philly runner and just going off and doing these things on my own and finding my voice, a lot of the readings.
Didn’t do those things earlier. It’s just, it’s like one, the fear of the unknown. It’s just what if I fail? What if I mess up? And then it’s just then it’s because you should have just went to law school. And so yeah, looking back.
I would just be significantly more kind, just Hey, it’s okay. Like you can do this running thing and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but be okay and be at peace with trying it.
Gagz: [01:12:47] That’s awesome. Good answer. Yeah. Thank you. All right. So for the people at home, just to wrap up Takia city fit girls right now, obviously the world is in shutdown still.
Pretend that the world is not in shutdown. When would the city girls meet?
Takia McClendon: [01:13:04] So we would meet on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM at city hall in Philadelphia. We have our, a Denver chapter, so they were meeting at six on Mondays. Okay. Both are obviously not happening right now, but,
Gagz: [01:13:17] and if you need
your fix also the city strength,
Takia McClendon: [01:13:21] Yeah. So not running, but it’s a program designed for runners and cyclists. And if you’re not a runner or a cyclist and you just want to get strong you’re more than welcome to join us, but that’s our ongoing program. We offer $15 a month. So you get access to strength, training workouts for runners.
Gagz: [01:13:37] Okay. Yeah.
And I must say for the people at home too, if you go on the, see fit girls blog it’s every week there’s, you’re just always thinking you’re always in motion, you and key area. Always. You’re always reading something. You’re always reading some, always watching something, always good
Takia McClendon: [01:13:56] you like it’s one of those things where like where people who just consume this content, because we just want to. Be great. Be better, at serving the people that we do. There’s no use of holding that information just to ourselves. And so we share it.
We’ll share everything that we learn
Gagz: [01:14:09] and I just, I want to see strides, make it. Oh man, me too.
Takia McClendon: [01:14:13] I really do everybody please. March 4th,
fourth, 5:15, all the Gagz: [01:14:19] information you can find it on city fit. Girls check out to Kia McLendon. On Instagram. Is
Takia McClendon: [01:14:24] there anything else? And just at city fit girls
Gagz: [01:14:26] on Instagram,
Takia McClendon: [01:14:27] what else we got?
I would say just subscribe to the city for girls newsletter. So that’s our number one form of communication. And so that’s just that city for girls.com and you can sign up for the newsletter where we send you recipes, running tips, workouts every Monday morning, right on. Yep.
Gagz: [01:14:45] Okay. All right. Best of luck to you
Takia McClendon: [01:14:47] too.
Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. My
Gagz: [01:14:49] pleasure. Peace and love everybody. Thank you.