KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Running has always been a passion for Tennessee cross country and track student-athlete Maxwell Barbour and he found a way to combine his love for distance running with taking action to inspire change.
After attending a peaceful rally in Baltimore, the Maryland native says he was inspired and moved by a speaker calling for change. “This woman was like all of you have the opportunity to make a difference and it’s your responsibility to do something to advocate for change,” said Barbour.
Then, he thought about his love for running and was overcome with emotion as he thought about the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery and how he cannot imagine being fearful for his life just from going on a run.
“One thought I always had is like those people that had to fear for their life now when they go running which is so sad,” says Barbour, “because running has always been such a privilege to me.”
That’s when he decided he wanted to take action and get others involved. Barbour ran his idea through UT’s track and field leadership and once he received the green light the campaign hit the ground running.
University of Tennessee’s athletic department continues to lead the way with inspiring change, and #LongRunForJustice was another prime example.
“UT track and field and athletics has taken a lot of initiatives to get things in action,” says Barbour, “They’ve provided a great platform for all of their athletes to get something in motion with unwavering support.”
The campaign was launched on Juneteenth, calling for people to run to honor the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others who have been a victim of racial injustice and violence stated on their call to action.
The campaign is also used to help spread awareness, keep the conversations going and encouraging action toward lasting equality and social justice throughout the world. Participants are encouraged to share their runs, thoughts and stories on social media using the #LongRunForJustice.
Scrolling through the hashtags has been inspiring says Barbour, seeing people share their runs and getting involved in the campaign. Other track and field/XC programs in the SEC have also shared the campaign on their social media sites.
“Running is good way to get ideas going on how you can make that change and how you can be the change,” says Barbour, “It’s just a small way to bring some unity for people in the community and people who like to run people who are also in the fight for justice.”
Barbour compares training for the long run to the fight for equality. “With distance running and the long run you have to be patient,” Barbour says, “Change is not going to happen overnight.”
Like with the long run, training is key.
“Just like the long run you have to train for it, with that being said you have to be advocating for change already and keep putting in the effort because if you do one long run it’s fine but if you don’t do on after that you will be out of shape,” said Barbour.
The campaign runs through the end of June but Barbour says it’s important to keep the conversations going and advocating for change; whether it’s donating to a charity, attending a rally, having conversations with family and friends or even just a smile.
“Anyone can make a change,” says Barbour, “You personally can make a change, you just have to go out there and do it. Anything you do will drive us in the right direction to reaching social equality and social justice.”
The distance runner adds that Tennessee track and field has done a good job at keeping an open platform for student-athletes to express their ideas and feelings. Coaches have also been very supporting and accessible being “a phone call or GroupMe text away.”
For now the plan is for the team to start training on August 12 according to Barbour.
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