GREATER GRAND CROSSING — Terrance and Bernard Lyles have been passionate runners for years, often doing father-son jogs together.
Now, the two have their own nonprofit — Men Run Deez Streets — that encourage Black Chicagoans to seriously take up running and fitness.
Terrance Lyles, a Greater Grand Crossing resident, has worked since 2013 to encourage Black men to run to prevent health issues that disproportionately affect Black people, like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Terrance’s dad, Bernard Lyles, has done similar work for years: He teaches triathlon-related sports — including running, swimming and cycling — to young people in suburban Matteson through Tri-Masters. The group was previously based in Chicago.
The two are also active in a South Side Black runners group that encourages people to take up running and make Black runners more visible in the city.
“I’ve been running since 2006 and run many races and marathons, and I realized what it has done for my life in general,” Terrance Lyles said. In 2013, “I just got a bunch of men together on Facebook and said, ‘Hey, who wants to get healthy? Who wants to run? Who wants to change their lives?’ and I had a bunch of responses.”
Men Run Deez Streets started as weekly runs with Terrance Lyles and a small group of men, but it’s progressed into training for marathons, hosting online discussions on men’s health issues, fostering mentorships and holding community service events and social gatherings.
Men Run Deez Streets returned to group runs in April after a hiatus. On Thursdays, the members jog and discuss all things fitness and health.
Men Run Deez Streets runners are also preparing for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Oct. 9 with their group runs and individual runs.
As the group returns to a more normal schedule, Terrance Lyles said he wants to start a mentorship program that would pair Englewood youth with Men Run Deez Streets members.
“We expect that to happen maybe in June or July, to where we can have an open mentor program for young men to join, to get them inspired,” Terrance Lyles said. “We would like to get more young men in their teens to early 20s to start joining our ranks and understanding the importance of fitness and health.”
Bernard Lyles has had a lifelong career of running and fitness. He is an original member of the Rainbow Road Runners, a now-defunct group of Black runners active in the city during the 1980s and ’90s. He was club president for nine years.
The group recently was inducted into the National Black Marathoners Association’s 2022 National Black Distance Running Hall of Fame.
Bernard Lyles said he gravitated toward running at a time in his life when he was facing a lot of uncertainty, having lost his job while struggling with depression. One of the things that helped ease his mind during the time was going out to the lakefront and seeing people running, he said.
“I started going out a little bit and I found that it really took a load off my mind,” Bernard Lyles said. “I just continued with it because I didn’t feel depressed anytime that I was out running. Eventually time took care of things and everything started shaping up. So it got me out of depression.”
Bernard Lyles started with 10K races and made his way to the Rainbow Runners. He later got a job working at Chicago State University’s special events office.
Nearly 40 years later after taking up running, he has transitioned to triathlon instruction. Tri-Masters was established with help from then-Chicago State President Dolores Cross and a $10,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust.
The father and son also are active in Black Chicago Runners, where Men Run Deez Streets members and other Black runners meet Saturdays at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Jackson Park for training runs. Some runners prepare for 10Ks while others work toward marathon distances.
Both said they see their individual ventures as ways to improve their physical and emotional health with others, but also to make Black runners more visible in and around the city.
“We get the stigma that Black men don’t run or things like that, because if you look at running as a whole, we are the very minority of runners,” Terrance Lyles said. “A lot of our athletes, they may lean toward maybe basketball, football, things like that. I think we’ve opened up that mind frame to, ‘Hey, there are Black men that run, and that Black men that really take health and fitness seriously.’”
Bernard Lyles said it means a lot that his son is just as passionate about running as he is.
“I’m very proud of him, and I’m part of the group. I just made myself part of it to help promote it and help with the camaraderie with the rest of the runners and share my experiences and be a part of it,” Bernard Lyles said. “I’m very proud of him and what he’s doing. It’s kind of like passing down the legacy of helping people through running and fitness.”
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