Badass Lady Gang Takes Show of Solidarity, Strength ‘on the Road’

By VICTORIA FORD | Apr 10, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Jourdan Travers (left) and Nikki Lewicki cover the distance, stride by stride and side by side.

When one of the seven women who had gathered Sunday morning, April 7, for a group run and workout made a self-deprecating remark about not having the “standard runner’s body,” she met instantly with a chorus of reassurance: “There is no ‘standard runner’s body’!” That spontaneous moment perfectly illustrates the mission of the Badass Lady Gang: to cheer and inspire each other; to shape individual ideas of endurance and strength; to share in the triumphs and uplift each other in moments of self-doubt or self-criticism.

Barnegat is now home to a new chapter of the Badass Lady Gang – a free, global running movement with the mission to connect, support and encourage women to get active in empowering ways.

“We believe that by sharing our stories and supporting one another as we work to become our strongest selves, we can redefine what strength looks like,” according to Barnegat chapter leader Lindsay Griffiths.

Assembled at the municipal dock on a gloriously sunny spring morning were women in their 20s, 30s and 40s – mothers, professionals, marathoners, novices. No matter the motivation, united by the common bond of running, the friendly vibe was immediate.

Griffiths welcomed everyone, handed out souvenir buffs (cloth headbands) and ran down the game plan. She had placed two little bunny-shaped markers along the road, one-quarter mile apart. The women would run a series of six out-and-backs, performing exercises between each half-mile, in the order listed on the poster, acronym SPRING – Squats, Pushups, Running skips, Inchworm, Narrow squats, Glute bridges.

Everyone embarked on the workout at their own pace. Runners set off together or separately, chatting as they covered the miles, as runners do, discussing work and family life, swapping training advice and other running experiences – everything from memories of high school track and cross-country, to reasons for running (mental health is a huge one), to embarrassing bodily functions.

As the runners passed each other en route to or fro, high fives were exchanged and words of encouragement shouted.

The BALG movement began in January 2018 as a Facebook group created by Brooklynite Kelly Roberts; that group now has over 7,000 members. From the online community grew IRL meetups for fitness, fun and feminine prowess.

Since the start of 2019, the real-life “gangs” have expanded to 53 chapters – 46 in the United States.

“We’re growing our group here in Barnegat, and we’re welcoming all ladies along the Jersey Shore,” Griffiths said.

The gang meets at 9 a.m. at the Barnegat Municipal Dock on the first and third Sunday of every month.

“Bringing together a strong, positive, supportive community of women to run together is a huge passion of mine,” she said. “Whether they love running or hate running, this group is for them!”

Griffiths said she believes the movement’s success and rapid growth have mostly to do with founder Kelly Roberts herself. Roberts was already well known and liked for her fun, positive social media presence, for sharing her journey and debunking notions of a so-called typical runner’s physique.

“I think, too, that it came at the right time and also represents something that a lot of us were missing,” Griffiths said. Having grown weary of the proliferation of negativity and quarreling on Facebook, Griffiths had been considering deactivating her account before she discovered BALG. “Having a group of women come together where the goal was strength, support, guidance, and, as Kelly reminds everyone regularly, ‘life, with a side of running,’ was really a breath of fresh air,” she said.

Anytime drama threatens to bubble up, the BALG group is self-policing, according to Griffiths. The women who find it doesn’t work for them will self-select out.

Griffiths recalled one instance in which a post of hers elicited a snarky comment, and “before I had a chance to respond, another woman jumped in and said, ‘That wasn’t helpful. A helpful comment would look like ...’ and the original commenter revised her thoughts.”

The group page has just a few rules – e.g. no diet talk, unless it’s about fueling or nutrition, and no selling or fundraising – “but, for the most part, anything goes.”

Members of the Facebook community share a camaraderie that carries over into real-world experiences. Griffiths recently met the Twin Cities and Orlando chapter leaders when she ran in the Disney 5K and 10K Princess runs and joined the cheer station for the half-marathon.

“We cry together, follow each other’s training ups and downs, celebrate running and life wins, commiserate over job losses, divorces, infidelities, rally behind each other, and hopefully bring that strong sense of self, power and leadership to the next generation of badass women.”

This week, Griffiths is traveling to Paris with three other BALG members to run her first marathon.

“I can honestly say that the Badass Lady Gang has changed my life,” she said. “It’s helped grow my confidence in running, and professionally, it pushed me to join a local women’s running group (Southern Ocean Ladies) and then start the BALG chapter. It’s the reason I have local friends, and it’s the reason I’m making it to the starting line of my first marathon next weekend, which I literally never thought I would do.”

— Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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