Updated: Mar 12
Black Men Run (BMR) was started in Atlanta in 2013 by Edward Walton and Jason Russell to give African-Americans a brotherhood built on lifestyle, physical fitness and accountability. It now has chapters in more than 50 cities, including London, Paris, and, of course, Philadelphia. There’s no shortage of Philly running groups focusing on the benefits of fitness; but BMR PHL stands alone in trying to reverse the disturbing trend of excessively high rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes among African-American men. Leading the charge for BMR PHL in those efforts are Legacy of Hope sponsored athletes for the 2022 Love Run Half Marathon, captain Lawrence Harrington and vice-captain George Morse.
• Among Blacks age 20 and older, 44.4% of men have Cardiovascular Diseases
• Black males have a risk of first-ever stroke that is almost twice that of whites
• Heart disease is the number one cause of death for African American males
Harrington started running with BMR Philly in 2019 and in 2020 he was tapped to be captain by his predecessor. Soon after, Harrington tapped George Morse to be his vice-captain. Both are seasoned runners with numerous races under their belts—multiple full marathons, half marathons, as well as many 5 and 10k races. They joined forces with Legacy of Hope through Will Peoples, a friend of Harrington who was fighting cancer at the time.
“Will and I went to college together." Recalls Harrington, "Via social media, I saw that he was battling cancer, and I would check in on him and send my prayers. Then Will reached out and asked if I might be interested in doing a bike ride as part of the PHL24—instead of climbing the stairs for 24 hours—to help raise funds for Legacy of Hope. We rode over 100 miles.” Harrington’s efforts with Will at the PHL24 sealed the deal for Morse to get on board to with Legacy.
Harrington works as a forensic case manager providing comprehensive case management services to individuals with severe mental illness and intellectual disabilities. He also holds an MBA with concentration in project management, and is part of Legacy of Hope's mentorship program. His mentorship services are further put to excellent use in his role as a youth advocate for the Students Run Philly Style program, MileUp, a diversion pathway that brings running and mentorship to youth facing delinquency charges who were formerly ineligible for restorative interventions.
Morse, who works as sergeant for the Philadelphia Sheriff’s office, says of his 15 years a first responder, "I’m just trying to help make people’s burdens a little easier." He came across BMR through one of his Bartram [high school] classmates who was ahead of him by a couple years. "My buddy was running with BMR Philly; I had never seen a group of black men running together doing distance runs. So I came out to one of the Wednesday night group runs. I remember telling the captain at that time, ‘You guys, don’t leave me, I haven’t run more than three miles.’ When we got back to the Art Museum Steps everybody was like, ‘where’s that guy who was worried we were gonna leave him?!? Man, you were out in front the whole time!!’ The camaraderie and fellowship that I came across with BMR Philly has kept me in the ranks." Now he pays it forward with his leadership.
Morse has a deep appreciation of the importance of fitness, thanks to a close call in his early 20s. He recounts how running literally saved his life: “I got caught up in a violent shooting; and I wouldn’t have survived without using the running techniques I learned playing football...like zig-zagging. I got hit in my legs and abdomen, but nowhere that caused severe damage—no nerve damage, thankfully. Timing, God’s grace, and running saved my life!" That incident certainly play a role in the Hood2Hood run series, BMR's collaboration with Swaggahouse Run Club in the summer of 2021, where the two clubs ran through Philly neighborhoods most affected by gun violence to raise awareness and try to curb the gun violence. They engaged at risk youth and local businesses along the routes, logging a total of over 70 miles over 14 runs.
"You don't get in shape to come to BMR, you come to BMR to get in shape." - Edward Walton
Harrington and Morse will be running the 2022 Love Run Half Marathon to help raise funds for Legacy of Hope's Emergency Patient Support Network. You can donate to help Harrington and/or Morse reach their fundraising goals. If you'd like to join them and team BMR as they run the half marathon, you can still register at PhillyRunsFree.com. Raise $250 or more for Legacy of Hope to have your registration fee refunded and run for free. Already registered for the Love Run? You can still run for free by clicking on step two at PhillyRunsFree.com.
Harrington hopes to clock a personal record in the Love Run, aiming for 1:55:00 and then goes on to say "I’m challenging all our members who are registered to run the Love Run to PR." Morse "just wants to get out there and enjoy it, and try to clock a sub 2, maybe a 1:45. Regardless, he says "I'll definitely have my mom on my mind, she was recently diagnosed with lymphoma."
If you'd like to run with BMR, you can join them Wednesday nights (6pm at Lloyd Hall for 5 miles) and Saturday mornings (7:30am Mander Playground at 33rd and Diamond for 5-6 miles). Show up, and you can expect a warm welcome, being introduced to the group and get knowledge from the runners. All are welcome.