When 23-year-old Jay Ell Alexander found out that she had high blood pressure, she knew it was time to make a change. She signed up for a training group, fell in love with running, and was ultimately introduced to Black Girls RUN!— an organization dedicated to encouraging and motivating black women to practice a healthy, active lifestyle.
A lot has happened in the 12 years since Jay Ell started running: Marriage, children, and taking the reins as the CEO of Black Girls RUN!, to name a few milestones of the last decade. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: her love for running. We sat down with Jay Ell to ask about her advice for new runners, experience as BGR’s CEO, her 100 pound weight loss journey and more.
What inspired you to start running?
Running has become my "me" time. I had put on some weight in 2010— met my now husband and was just living good! At the age of 23 I started experiencing head aches and high blood pressure and my doctor knew it was a result of the increased weight gain in a short time. I signed up for a 10K training team and fell in love with the pavement.
Over the last decade or so, my weight has ebbed and flowed, but running has helped to be my foundation.
In 2019, I hit my absolute heaviest weight (over 300 pounds) 12 hours before my first child arrived and in that following year, lost over 100 pounds through fitness and being healthy.
You were involved with Black Girls RUN! for several years before becoming CEO— what motivated you to take on a leadership position?
It's a bit surreal. Opportunities really do come full circle. I started as PR Intern volunteer in 2012 helping our cofounders with the brand launch and expansion.
Over the last decade, I just really became their right hand person learning about everything with the business. In 2018, they presented me the opportunity to purchase the company and that has been 4 years ago.
How many groups does Black Girls RUN! currently have? What is your vision for BGR + BGR Foundation over the next few years?
We have 75 groups in 32 states with 250K members. My vision is really focused on growth and providing resources for women wherever they are on their health and fitness journey.
What is a piece of advice you give to women who want to get started with running?
Just start. Don't overthink it. And, give yourself grace.
You have a young son and a baby girl on the way! Congratulations! In 2020 you published a book about adjusting to motherhood and postpartum depression— what inspired you to write about these important topics?
Motherhood has been the most beautiful AND most humbling learning experience. I never knew it took ALL this to be a mother (lol!)
It was a huge transition for me and what I realized is that though I have an amazing village, I felt really lonely in my journey.
The sleepless nights, breastfeeding, and still trying to care for my marriage, business and myself was a lot. I wanted to present these topics in very light ways, so other mothers know they are not alone.
There’s something special about the connections and friendships forged in running communities like BGR. What can new members expect when they join a Black Girls RUN! Group?
You can expect a community to hold you down and hold you up! We are an amazing group of women that want to see you win, so join us and come drink the juice - we promise, you won't regret it!
What is the motivational phrase you have engraved on your ROAD iD?
My ROAD iD has #icandoallthings that references Phil 4:13— I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Jay Ell's Favorites
Favorite Podcast: Black Entrepreneur Blueprint
Favorite Book: The Great Gatsby
Favorite accounts to follow on Instagram: @trustgodbro @hertrueworth and @officialblackgirlsrun, of course!
A song or artist that always gets you pumped up and motivated: Anything Beyonce!
Top tip for race day: Stick with your routine - don't eat or do anything new!
Go-to meal after race day or a long run: Chocolate milk and Mexican food
About BGR: Black Girls RUN! aims to encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 80% of African-American women are overweight. BGR! wants to create a movement to lower that percentage and subsequently, lower the number of women with chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle.