Philip King isn’t concerned with PRs – which is surprising, considering how fast he is, with times around 1:15 for the half marathon and 2:48 for the full. He runs for the challenge, to connect with others, and to motivate members of his community. He’s active in Black Men Run, serves on the Black Unicorn Marathoners committee, and has run in races around the world, all while working a full-time job and raising a family.
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Philip thinks up running challenges and then, he says, “It’s just about seeing, can I get to the goal? Can I get close to it?” Sometimes a challenge comes from his daughters, even though they may not be aware of it. He remembers that when he first started running, he would come home from a race and they were happy to just put on his medal and wear it while they played with their friends. “Then it got to the point where I’d come home and they’d be like, ‘Oh, let me guess, you won your age group, but Daddy, when you gonna win the whole race?’ That’s where I got to make a push and train a little harder to try to win overall to impress them.”
His drive to succeed goes deeper than that, though. “I’ve always worn Black Men Run stuff ‘cause I just like the concept of representing Black men running; that’s something you really don’t see much of. So I kind of take a little pride in that to where I don’t want to just go and do the race and be there because it could be, you know, 10,000, 20,000 runners; you could get mixed up in that. I want to be one of the ones in the front; I want to be one of the ones that get called to the podium. That way other people for sure see you, if you get to the podium.”
To help other runners reach those top spots, Philip came up with the idea of having a Black Men Run to the Podium team. He describes it as being for “the guys that still want to be competitive, whether that’s in your own age group or, you know, if you wanna compete for the overall.” Since starting the team, he says, “We got more guys qualifying for Boston and that’s a good thing because when you go to Boston, as exciting as Boston is, you don’t see a lot of people that look like you, if you’re a Black male. So that’s one thing, you know, I’m always gonna be proud of.”
Being seen is important, he believes, because it can inspire someone else. “One of the things that really stood out early on, when I was running with my Black Men Run stuff on, I would go to races and the water stations are always staffed by volunteers, right? And some of the volunteer groups would be like a basketball team or cheerleading squad. If it would be a couple of Black kids at the table, they’ve been at this table all day and don’t see nobody run by the table that looks like them. And then when they see you come by, somebody that looks like them, their eyes light up. It meant something to them. So just to know that when people see you and they can identify with you, that it might inspire them to do different things in life, or take their health more serious, or you know, study harder for a test, just believe that they can do whatever obstacles they’re trying to overcome, it just gives them motivation.”
Philip loves that running gives him an opportunity to help others. That goes back to his childhood. He would help his grandfather tend his garden, and when they harvested the vegetables, his grandfather would put them in sacks and send him off to deliver them to neighbors. “So at an early age you learn how to give back and that’s always carried forward with me,” he says.
As a runner, he goes on, “I’ve had so many people help me along the way, just reach out and help me, without even me asking. And then if I ask, I’m definitely gonna get the help. So when somebody will do it for you, it’s nothing to do for somebody else. I mean, treat people the way you want to be treated.”
He’s found that sense of camaraderie among runners everywhere. “No matter what part of the world I’m in, no matter the color, you know, none of that has really been a boundary for me.” He remembers a pasta dinner before the Boston Marathon, where he was one of the few Black runners. “I sat with people from England, somebody else was from South America, or somewhere. And I mean, we all sat there, ate, had conversations, shared stories, and it’s just amazing how you can just connect with people from different areas of the world, different backgrounds, different cultures and y’all can have a conversation. It may not all be about running, but you know, running kind of kicks it off.”
The Boston Marathon is set to be the scene of one of his upcoming challenges, suggested unknowingly by his daughter, who thinks that he could place in the top 10 in his age group there. At first he doubted it, but then, he says, “I kind of looked into it and when I looked at the time, it’s very much possible. So that’s a goal. If health-wise, everything goes well, I’ll go back to Boston and give it a crack.”
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“Thank you” to Philip. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.