GROUNDBREAKERS: Celebrating Black History Month

GROUNDBREAKER: One that innovates

For Black History Month, we’re running a series entitled "Groundbreakers" featuring stories from Black athletes highlighting the people they see as having broken ground before them. New Groundbreakers are born every day. This month, we celebrate a handful of those who have inspired Black athletes of today. 




Jeffery Heard running on a path

On August 14, 2014, my whole world changed.  

It was this day that I learned my baby brother, Josh, passed away at age 26 in Phoenix, Arizona. This devastating news sent me swirling into a tailspin. To help deal with the sudden loss, I turned to running to help process the tidal wave of emotions that crushed me all at once. Running gave me the alone time I needed with myself and helped me to connect with Josh. 

Some of Josh's closest friends and coworkers hosted a memorial service before we laid him to rest. There, I connected with one of my brother’s friends—a runner. The following January, we decided that the two of us would run the Arizona Rock & Roll Marathon in Josh's memory. My first marathon, 26.2 miles, to celebrate my baby brother’s 26 years of life. 

Over the next few months, I often found myself alone, the memories of Josh propelling me forward. Most of these runs were along the beautiful river trail I’d run for years. The trail provided a sense of comfort that allowed me to use the marathon training as my grief outlet. 

Traveling back to Phoenix for the race was difficult. On race day I found comfort from a few runners from Black Men Run (BMR) Phoenix. I knew of the organization, but never had the opportunity to run with the group, as there was no chapter close to my home. There were only exchanges of good mornings and head nods of acknowledgement, but I recognized that acknowledgement from the BMR brotherhood as a message from Josh. A message that told me that there is a brotherhood to support and uplift me even in Josh’s absence. 

This Black History Month, I celebrate BMR and their fantastic work in promoting health and wellness in Black communities in throughout the United States. Although the global pandemic has kept me from attending group runs, I look forward to the day I can lace up and run with BMR again. From the depths of my heart, I give a tremendous thank you to Black Men Run Phoenix for the kindness extended to me during my first marathon and to the entire organization for the community work that aims to keep us healthy and happy. 


About the author: 

Jeffery Heard is runner, cyclist, duathlete, and Altra R.E.D. Team member and Ambassador.  

Follow him on Instagram: @RunJefferyRun