Toben is running 77 miles along the Eno River for Triangle Bikeworks, a Carrboro-based organization that provides educational bike trails to youth of color.

How did you get the idea for a charity run?

My partner and I live right outside of Chapel Hill, and as protests mounted, we were feeling disconnected. We have family members who are at high risk of having serious illnesses related to getting COVID, so we have to obey pretty stringent distance protocols and can’t attend protests. That inability to be involved got me thinking creatively about how to contribute at a distance. I typically train really hard for these long endurance running events and realized that when I’m out on the trail, I don’t see many people. At certain times of day, some trails aren’t populated, so I’ll choose those to run on, and I’ll bring a mask. Whenever someone runs past, I’ll put my mask up, and I have hand sanitizer that I always bring with me.

How did you settle upon this particular 77-mile stretch?

It happened organically while trying to find places where there aren’t a lot of people running. One day, I was looking at an aerial map of trails around the area, and I saw this little squiggly line along the Eno River. I ended up just parking at a road crossing and started running down the Eno. Twenty miles later, I realized that, even in central North Carolina, you can get this feeling of being up in the mountains. It’s cool by the Eno because the air is cooled by the water, and there’s actually mountain laurel in some parts of Hillsborough. It really feels like you’re in a different place—a very historic, old place. 

The Eno River used to be a source of water for Durham, a historically Black town, and Falls Lake and the Eno River are some of the historic waterways in our state. That lines up with the work of Triangle Bikeworks because the educational bike tours for youth of color that they lead, oftentimes, are designed around North Carolina’s historic waterways. So there’s a bit of a parallel. 

Do you have any recommendations for others hoping to participate in the movement for racial justice without putting their health at risk?

Start listening first and act second. I asked a certain organization if they would like me to raise money for them, and they respectfully declined, kindly. They have a lot on their plate, and this is one thing they can’t put their energy towards. Being very receptive initially instead of action-oriented is a subtle way to let the project that you’re embarking on develop in its own way, and you often bring in more educated community organizers into your project. It gives you a stronger foundation.

You can find more information about Toben’s charity run here. 

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