Excerpt from "STORIES FROM THE 2023 PIKES PEAK ASCENT & MARATHON" by Peter Maksimow
Posted on October 11, 2023 - Trailrunner.com
One local Manitou Springs resident, who is very new to trail running, having only done his first trail race in November of 2022, excitedly mingled at the start line of the PPA as he took in the nervous energy of those racing. You could feel his excitement, and he exuded the enthusiasm of trail running!
One could say Diarra Cropper, who goes by “D” amongst his friends, stands out from the trail running community. Although his newly found excitement for the sport is common with many people who discover trail running, he tends to stand out in large part because of his physical stature at 6’2”. He stands out in larger part because he is black, a rare occurrence in the homogeneously white-dominated sport of trail running.
Cropper did not run the PPA or PPM–he is currently training for his first 100-mile race at Javelina 100 in October–but he was involved in the weekend festivities and supported his good friend Derico Delaney, who participated in the PPA. Both Cropper and Delaney sported “Black Men Run” shirts, a nationwide organization with chapters in major cities. Their mission statement reads: To encourage health and wellness among African American men by promoting a culture of running/jogging to stay fit resulting in ‘A Healthy Brotherhood.’
The most visible black mountain and trail running athlete for the last decade and a half has been the 23-time National Champion and 9-time World Champion, Joseph Gray. With his huge athletic success, he has gained a large platform and utilized it to be an outspoken advocate for getting more black athletes into the sport.
I had the great opportunity to join Cropper and Delaney on a recent trail run through the Garden of the Gods to learn more about his history and trajectory into trail running. In high school, Cropper was a sprinter and hurdler in track & field, but his main sports were football and basketball. After a serious injury on the basketball court during his sophomore year of college, his collegiate athletic career came to an abrupt end.
After college, Cropper became a semi-pro basketball and volleyball player, touring around Colorado and making a meager income. In the summer of 2021, during a pickup basketball game, he came down on his ankle wrong, culminating in a ruptured Achilles tendon. In an effort to get back to what he loved, he committed himself to aggressive physical therapy to get the Achilles back to proper function.
That commitment worked, as he came back eight months later to run his first 5K, completing it in 30 minutes. He continued that progression and ran his next 5K in 25 minutes. In his most recent 5K, he made another huge improvement and finished in 19 minutes. In his comeback to health, he found the love of running and completed his first trail half marathon in November of 2022.
Fast forward to our run in the Garden of the Gods, where Cropper was sporting a brand new pair of Speedland GS:PGH that he received in the mail the day before. The excitement that comes with any fresh pair of running shoes was very apparent. At the conclusion of the run, Cropper was sold on the shoes and has since accepted a sponsorship deal from Speedland. D has come a long way in a short period of time and still has a long way to go in what appears to be a very bright future!
To read more, check out "STORIES FROM THE 2023 PIKES PEAK ASCENT & MARATHON", by Peter Maksimow at Trailrunner.com.
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