Emma Garcia-Rider and America Davis are serious runners. They’ve run the Reno Tahoe Odyssey — the infamous 178-mile relay race that starts in Reno and circles Lake Tahoe — six years, along with dozens of 5ks, 10ks and even a few marathons. Yet for many years they felt like outsiders. They never saw runners who looked like them, and they didn’t feel part of a running community.
So they started a gang.
The Badass Lady Gang is an inclusive women’s group that holds meets-up on the first and third Tuesday of the month at Virginia Lake to connect and empower women though running.
A Gang of Unexpected Runners
While the two women, who are also sisters, did not create the Badass Lady Gang (BALG) concept — they fully embody it.
They were approached by BALG founder Kelly Roberts, the unassuming New York runner who launched a running movement after she posted “selfies with hot guys behind me while trying to survive a half marathon.” The sisters connected with Roberts on Instagram, and she encouraged them to launch a Reno chapter of her meet-up group.
BALG is not about training for a 10k or losing weight. It is purely an opportunity for women to connect, support and inspire each other to get active. It’s for women who may not see themselves as runners, or even as athletes, as well as those who do and are simply seeking the camaraderie of other positive women. And it’s 100% free.
Does Reno Need Another Running Group?
“We wanted to create a space where all are truly welcome,” Davis explains. “We just didn’t see runners who looked like us — plus size.”
For those first few cold February meet-ups, it was just the two sisters. “We are committed to always being there, whether people show up or not,” says Garcia-Rider. But word has gotten out, and they have hosted runs with as many as 12 women.
The meet-ups have also helped the two women stick to their personal running goals. “It helps us be consistent,” says Garcia-Rider. She continues, “Our goal isn’t to be huge, it’s to be here. We want to reach more women and help them feel supported.”
While many running groups say, ‘all abilities and paces welcome,’ in many cases that simply isn’t the case, and slower runners feel unwelcome or that they will be a burden to the group. And while the benefits of working out with friends is well documented, for women who do not have a history of participating in group exercise, running groups can be very intimidating. BALG counters those challenges with a “leave no woman behind” culture. No matter who shows up, Davis makes sure she is the last runner bringing up the rear. “No one is made to feel they are too slow or too fast,” she says.
The sisters create all the workouts, and every run includes waiting up for the last participant — every time. The format is predictable and reassuring. “Those who felt unsure about doing a hill workout or speed workout — they have the group to fall back on,” explains Gracia-Rider. “And after, they can commiserate together. They can celebrate together. There’s group support.”
As part of the BALG, the sisters have hosted two #GlobalSportsBraSquadDay meet-ups. This global movement, also initiated by Kelly Roberts, encourages women to ditch their shirts and reject the idea of ‘what a runner should look like’ in favor of ‘this is what strength looks like.’
“I always run in a sports bra,” says Garcia-Rider, “to reinforce that women should be proud of who they are and what they can do and how they look.”
Oh, and after each meet-up, they award one member the ‘YASS QUEEN, YASS!' award and crown her for showing up, working hard and inspiring other runners. How many running groups do that?
But Why Running?!
Garcia-Rider and Davis created BALG for themselves as much as for their community. They just love to run.
“What I love about running is every workout is different, every run is different, Garcia-Rider explains. “Some days you feel amazing, some days you feel horrible. What it is for you changes every day. And I am different after every run.”
For Davis, it is about embracing both her strengths and her shortcomings. “I shouldn’t be a runner, but I am,” she says. “I weigh 260 pounds. I have asthma and flat feet. But when I run, I feel alive, I feel connected to nature. It makes me feel strong, and I Iove that feeling.”
Who belongs in the BALG?
The members of BALG are a diverse group. There are multi marathoners and occasional racers. What binds them together is not their pace or their weekly mileage, it’s their attitude — they come together to support and empower each other.
“Members tell us, ‘If I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t have worked out,’” says Garcia-Rider. “Or, ‘I wouldn’t have pushed myself this hard.’ This is why we do it, we’re cheering for each other, pushing each other and enjoying each other.”
Garcia-Rider and Davis are also part of the Desert Sky Adventures Desert Tortoise Ambassador program. Desert Sky is a Reno-based, women-owned race management company that promotes numerous running events in the region with a focus on fun and adventure. As Desert Tortoise Ambassadors, the sisters are able to encourage all kinds of women to get out and run — both with the BALG and in organized Desert Sky events — knowing there are women like them who are doing it, too.
“At the end of the day, we want women of all shapes and sizes to gather and workout,” Davis adds. “Running is for everybody and every body, and runners can be any and every shape, stride, color and pace. Everyone has the ability to do it.”
How to Join
If you’d like to join the BALG, all you need to do is show up. They meet the first and third Tuesday of every month at 5:45pm at Virginia Lake, north parking lot by the bridge. Only unsafe conditions cancel. They are also adding some occasional Saturday workouts to help accommodate more members. You can follow badassladygangreno on Instagram for the latest schedule updates and to add a little inspiration into your life.