Sabrina is passionate about making running a more inclusive sport (Picture: Supplied)
Sabrina is passionate about making running a more inclusive sport (Picture: Supplied)

Welcome back to How I Made It,’s weekly career journey series.

This week we’re chatting with Sabrina Pace-Humphreys, 45, a runner, trainer, author and volunteer from Gloucestershire. 

After working for 16 years in PR, she decided to quit and build a running coaching and PT business.

It was while running an ultra-marathon that she got the idea to set up the charity, Black Trail Runners.

During the race, Sabrina had slipped and was crying out for help – but none came.

She said: ‘I fell off a snow field and was screaming for dear life. Five white men ran past me as if I wasn’t there.’

She says the experience made her rethink her place in the outdoor running community and so, Black Trail Runners was born.

Sabrina Pace-Humphreys
She works full time and volunteers too (Picture: Sabrina Pace-Humphreys)

The group is now attended and supported by many, and has teamed up with running app Strava to host events.

‘Helping people to manage their mental health through movement in nature was something that was a massive driver for me to lean into the career change,’ she said.

Her role as co-founder and trustee is entirely voluntary. It’s work that takes plenty of heart – and stamina.

Hi Sabrina. Why did you set up Black Trail Runners, and why is it important to have events like this specifically for people of colour?

For too long, there has been a massive lack of diversity in people of colour feeling that the outdoors is for them. In the trail running space, less than 0.7% of participants are Black people.

That figure is low not because they don’t want to experience the outdoors via this form of movement. It’s because barriers exist – in access, skills and representation. 

Black to the Trails, our inclusive running event, was designed, led and operated by members of Black Trail Runners – of all ethnicities – that want to see a more diverse outdoors.

You can’t be what you can’t see and increasing participation via events such as those we’ve organised with Strava ultimately increases the richness of the sport.

If that means offering Caribbean food, music reflective of our cultures and an energy and vibrancy that is unmatched, so be it. 

The Black to the Trails running event has been a big success (Picture: Strava)

Did you have to do any training to get here?

My career, and life experience to date has been all the training I have needed.

I grew up in the countryside and experienced racial abuse from a young age.

I understand deeply what it is like to feel othered and that you don’t belong in rural spaces.

I also ran an award winning PR company for 16 years which I closed down in February 2020 as I wanted to develop my passion for run coaching and personal training.

Sabrina in her happy place (@sabrunsmiles)
Sabrina in her happy place (@sabrunsmiles)

There’s a misconception that volunteering doesn’t require as much time commitment. What’s your experience been?

The role that takes up a lot of my time – and has done for the past three years, is my work at Black Trail Runners. It involves all aspects of building a community and a charitable organisation. 

My role as PT and running coach is paid work, and I can be flexible and make it fit around my commitments to Black Trail Runners.

We’re proud to now have over 12,000 members on our Strava club and a key part of my job is organising regular meet ups to build and maintain the community.

My day-to-day entails everything from developing relationships with senior management teams at organisations and brands who need to address the lack of diversity in their offering, to coaching runners on what it is to explore the countryside via the act of trail running.

No one day is the same. It’s challenging but purposeful. 

What challenges do you face?

Managing the human and financial resources available in order to continue to address our mission.

I am a volunteer and, with the best will in the world, have a finite amount of time to give.

A day in the working life of Sabrina Pace-Humphreys

‘There is no average day. I’ll tend to respond to emails that come in and are sent my way. Arrange calls or meetings with people who want to engage with the charity. I work closely with other trustees to ensure that, from a strategic point of view, our resources are being targeted appropriately. I also lead various Black Trail Runners’ working groups so there are always tasks emanating from these to be delegated and worked on.’

What do you love most about your job?

I love people. I love building community.

There is no greater joy than working on an initiative to address barriers to the outdoors that exist for people of colour, and then to see the physical manifestation of all you have worked hard for.

There is no quick fix to this issue, but our group is leading the charge to encourage more diversity on the trails, and with the help of brands like Strava who have been key in helping to build our community, we’ve also been able to host our first mass-participation event called Black To The Trails

Next year’s event is due to be announced this month (Picture: Strava)

What do you dislike the most?

Time wasters. Brands and organisations that are not willing to look deeply at themselves, their structures and their systems in order to tackle inequity.

It starts with them. We are not a tick box exercise and we are not willing to do that work for them. There has to be a commitment to intentional action. If you’re here for that, let’s work together. 

Do you have a story to share?

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