Dora Atim - Ultra Black Running




Family matters with Dora Atim – Auntie Dora to most. Not only busy with her fingers in many pies, but cooking many all at once, and all coming out the oven in perfect form. When it comes to seeing what Dora is up to, make sure you’ve got a notepad on hand, ready take notes on running, community, style and making things happen.

Working with kids and young people, she’s a fitness instructor, Nike+ running coach, co-parent of lastpick.ac and founder of what we’re chatting more about below - Ultra Black Running.


Dora goes by the mantra –

'We move'




“There is a solution to everything! I want to think that I have a positive mindset to pretty most things in my life, and during this [2020] period, a friend told me that we can’t let a good crisis go to waste, and I tried my best to stand by it – so far, so good.”




Portraits by George Tewkesbury
And group shots by Simon Roberts





GS
What is inspiring you right now?


DA
Music is inspiring me at the moment; I am a lover of house music. Whenever I need motivation for running, it can become quite repetitive, running pretty much all the time, discovering new and old music and making new playlists gets me inspired and out the door!

One of my favourites albums to listen to whilst out on a trail run is called ‘BLACK’ by Culoe De Song. This album gets me going every time, and I don’t ever have to skip a single track!

The track ‘Rambo’ took me right back to my house raving days. From there I rediscovered the album, I remember listening to it for the first time in a long time and feeling so inspired. When I talk about ultra-black having a relationship with house music, this is how house music influenced the
birth of Ultra Black.


Also, the new runners who took up the sport during lockdown – it has been inspiring because people have reached out to me with questions and tips. I could relate back to when I first started running, and people having such a positive mindset has been incredibly refreshing and inspires me to keep going no matter the current situation.











GS 
Has there been a common question asked by new runners?


DA
When new runners hit me up, the most common question is the distance we always run. I always say between 5-8km and the in-between depends on whether I take a wrong turn, as navigation has never been my strong point. 
 

My favourite tip to share though, is to run on feeling. Don’t set a time or distance. When we set a time/distance, especially when starting out running, it adds pressure as we sometimes let the negative thoughts take over. And most importantly before you are actually out on the run, it’s tough to get started, but don’t overthink, just go for it! Even if you run for 5 minutes, it’s more than zero minutes.




                              


GS
How has your relationship with running changed over the years?


DA
Over the years, my relationship with running has changed massively! I started running more regularly in 2014. When I began to progress, I thought that meant becoming quicker and quicker. Over the years, I’ve completed multiple races, and obviously, not every single one went to plan. Also, now running is a massive part of my work, so running for me is now an enormous part of my lifestyle. I run whenever I can and wherever I am in the world.

I am also on this journey of loving my body, not for aesthetic reasons, but more so that my body is strong enough to run the milage that I do, that my body can endure the distance, the hard work.



GS
If you were to tell the youngest person in your family what UltraBlackRunning is, how would you tell them?


DA
Since the youngest in my family is my youngest sister, who I have tried to get into running (with little success), I’ve told her Ultra Black is for Black women just like her to come and drop her HOTTEST running/workout look, and that there’ll maybe be some running involved. This, believe it or not, sparked massive interest, mainly because fashion plays an enormous part in our lives, as we always like to look our best whether it’s throwing the rubbish out, going for a run, or going to a party.








GS
How do you find teaching, guiding or at least your place in being a voice for other women and non-binary people of colour who run?


DA
I feel absolutely honoured to be in a position where I can coach and lead these phenomenal women and non-binary of colour. To get into running, who already run and want to join in with a community of similar individuals that want to get out into the trails and work towards something unique!

GS
So what does support mean to you then?


DA
Support for me is everything! Being a community leader/coach or a person in leadership can be quite lonely and isolating at times. Having good people in your support network is vital! Most of the running community have been super supportive to me in my running and even more so with the launch of Ultra Black Running. Support goes such a long way. It can be recommending someone to join one of the runs, mentioning UBR in a meeting room, to sharing a post on socials, from a member of UBR helping out another member.








GS
When you took that step into the world of trail, what have been the most significant things you’ve learnt.


DA
When I decided to embark on this journey with others, There were feelings of both excitement and being very nervous. Because I had been thinking about this for a while, I knew that it was ‘time’ to launch and get it going. Trail running is something so unique, and the opportunities are endless! So far I have learnt that there is a difference between trail and mountain runner, every day is a school day, you know?



GS
Information, on the one hand, is quite accessible these days, but sometimes the language of it doesn’t speak to you. With trails, what are the resources, tips and info you can share with others who might be curious? 


DA
There are not many accessible resources that speak to me in my kind of language or tone of voice, so I take to Instagram, as I follow some accounts that post a lot of imagery and stories about the trails. One way to get me interested is by what the person is wearing, I am always inspired by the outfits that these guys rock.


For those wanting to get into trail, utilise the hashtag function on socials! You will find a lot of posts relating to the topics you are interested in. Also research local parks near you, you will become surprised on how much is actually within a 2-mile radius! Start with that, then when you are ready, search ‘Areas of Natural Beauty’ and be prepared to be blown away on what is around us in the UK.


Also, if you lack inspiration, I urge you to watch documentaries and YouTube videos. I watch videos of runners who took part in the Marathon Des Sables, and honestly, nothing makes me want to challenge myself even more!









“..every day is a school day, you know?”





GS
For anyone in greater London, where would you tell them to go for a few different trail routes?


DA
The great thing about London is that there are quite a few trails that are easy to travel to. Epping Forest in east London is a vast forest and can be accessed via multiple areas in the East.

Secondly, Richmond Park is another popular area in West London. It is absolutely stunning and can be accessed via multiple points. It’s massive, and you can really go wild in there, and you may even spot some Deer!

Like the previous section, search ‘Areas of Natural Beauty’, and you’ll find so many national parks around the UK, that have websites which you could plan a day trip out to run and walk around and explore. (Tag us on @ultrablackrunning as I am always looking for inspiration).




GS
What tips would you share when it comes to food, train lines and how to look after yourself?


DA
Before any trail run, I would always plan transport the day before, to check that train lines are running - trains run very frequently from London Waterloo, and you can get out into some fantastic trails in less than one hour.

I prepare a nice wholesome, enjoyable meal - My go-to is salmon, broccoli, rice and all the chilli oil! In the morning, my go-to is yoghurt, honey & granola or porridge. I pack light snacks with me for when I need that pick-me-up mid-run. I want to say I take a granola bar and fruit. I also have a massive sweet tooth, so I always pack sweets to keep it exciting. Wine gums, fruit pastilles and Kinder Buenos are my addiction right now, and the perfect snack for during my run. Post-run, I would always source a cherry coke or sparkling water! Post-run meals, I tend to freestyle with the fridge. Most of the time it would be last night’s dinner or anything that involves broccoli as that’s my favourite piece of veg. But for longer runs or when I am following a training plan, I tend to be a bit more structured with meals and recovery.

Because I run in the trails alone most of the time, I make sure I semi-plan the route, or check I know where nearest exits are and take time and try and be super vigilant on the terrain to prevent slips and trips (never guaranteed to stop them completely, but I can only try). 



GS
Let’s talk about running aesthetics and style aesthetics.
Can you talk to the idea that emphasis on dressing with style in mind can create a more enjoyable experience with running?


DA
I REALLY enjoy experimenting with my closet and piecing together different outfits. My style is entirely random, and I love bold prints and bright colours, but also love a co-ord. I find that running has really helped me be expressive in how I dress. I can wear whatever I like, as long as it is comfortable enough to run in and I feel good in it (and is Nike)

GS
What kind of feeling does running trails give you?


DA
When I am in the trails I feel so fearless, so grounded and just grateful for movement. Running in the trails gives me such a sense of freedom and purpose of the challenge. Running is a great way to ‘clear your mind’ as they say, however in the trails, you do exactly that –you’re literally focusing on where your foot is going next, trying to just make it through without falling over, which happens more often than it should!





GS
What areas do you see support lacking in when it comes to the world of running?


DA
When reading through trail running publications, social media platforms and so on, Black people are very rarely or never included in these stories. I also very rarely see anyone that I can relate to. As a result, the trail running scene remains super dull in my opinion and really does need revamping. I believe that visibility of Black people and representation of marginalised groups are missing from the world of running. There are unique and inspiring people doing remarkable things who deserve to have their story told and also shown. 

Whilst most brands and companies are now aware of the lack of representation, and at most some have discussed the issue, I feel that it’s now time for them to be accountable and stand by the solidarity statements. Open and honest conversations indicate that organisations are willing to help drive change. Finally, a part of this conversation should include how to access specific resources and opportunities for marginalised groups.


GS
Most cis-men (persons male born, male-identifying) would see running totally different to womxn, those of colour and non-binary identifying. There’s been more talk around women's safety (or fear) when out running. What do you think men can do to be more considerate, thoughtful and mind the pun - know what it is like in another pair of running shoes?


DA
I think that this is such a vast topic, one we do not discuss enough. I feel that we always discuss how women should stay safe, how we should run in groups and so on. When I am running alone, I am ever told what I should wear to prevent catcalling, what time I should run and so on. As a woman, there is so much to take into consideration when running, which men need to take into deep consideration as most of these things women experience, pose as a massive barrier into women continuing or even wanting to start running in the first place.


During the summer, I was running nearly every day, and every single run was met with a man cat-calling, beeping their car, wolf-whistling or making unnecessary comments. Now, this happens to most women whilst out on a run, and we would often be told not to wear short shorts or maybe not to run in just a sports bra. The discussion should be directed at men and their behaviours, and these discussions need to be led by men, as women, we have been discussing this topic for as long as I can remember.



GS
What are some of the trail/ultra Instagram accounts that you like or are inspired by?


DA
@poweruprun - a running collective based in Paris. They host regular runs with their members in and around Paris. They also venture out on different trail adventures around France, and they are always rocking the hottest and latest running kit and make it look super cool & is relatable to me as I love to look good when out on the run. The first thing that had me hooked to their account was the fact that they are all people I can relate to, the scenery, the shoes and the energy that comes from their Instagram stories. I have saved many of the trail locations they have been to, and hopefully, I can visit these locations too.

@susie_chan_ - Susie Chan is an endurance runner from the U.K. who I have followed for many years! She has completed many a race and has taken on the most challenging races such as Marathon Des Sables which is through the Sahara desert & The Jungle Ultra which is in The Amazon rain forest. She also broke the world record by running on a treadmill for 12 hours!

@themirnavator - Mirna Valerio, is a super unique and inspiring ultra runner, originally from New York, and I started following her after finding out about her blog. She is a Black woman who discusses the journey of re-defining what distance runners actually look like, as we are used to seeing athletic, cis white men and women on magazine covers and running events. Ever since, I have been so inspired to take on ultra marathons, because she is someone I can relate to in terms of redefining societal norms.

@blacktrailrunners - when I launched Ultra Black, a lovely lady, Sabrina Pace Humphreys (@sabrunsmiles) reached out and discussed jumping on a call with other Black trail runners. After an in-depth and thoughtful discussion, the group decided that they will form a group that will work towards diversifying the outdoors and have already been in talks with race organisers to make this happen.



Dora’s watching: 









GS
How do folks get involved with UBR?


DA
We are currently open for new members to join the runs when the runs go live on our Instagram channels, folks can sign up directly via our DM.


Please keep up with everything Dora‘s doing through Ultra Black Running by following the instagram accounts. 


🥦













   

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