“I know I can be an inspiring example by working hard and winning races, but giving back to the community and the sport that has given me so much is just as important. I want other young black and minority runners to have some of the same life-changing opportunities and experiences I have enjoyed.” — HOKA Athlete Joe Gray
Joe Gray has been on the pro trail running circuit for a while now, winning 17 U.S. national championships, representing the U.S. in international races 28 times, and winning the 2016 and 2019 World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria and Argentina, respectively. We sat down with him to learn more about his views on running, adversity, and challenging the status quo.
HOKA: Despite your success, you still manage to fly under the radar. Tell us about yourself.
Joe: I am a Black American distance runner dedicated to being competitive across a wide variety of distance running disciplines, including trail, mountain, track, road, cross country, ultra-distance and snowshoe racing.
HOKA: What does running mean to you, and what role does it play in your life?
Joe: Running is all about the idea of challenging yourself and making sacrifices to meet goals. The role running plays in my life is multi-faceted: being that I love to wander and explore, running fulfills my innate desire to explore new places and find the ends of trails around the world. Running also provides me a way to seek challenges and goals which I firmly believe drive individuals and teams to be better people overall.
HOKA: How has your relationship with running changed throughout your life?
Joe: My relationship with running has changed and adapted many times throughout my journey. Initially, running was simply a sport to me: a type of competition. Now it’s a way of life, a way for me to connect to my community, and also a way for me to learn new things about different parts of the world.
HOKA: What does “Time to Challenge the Status Quo” mean to you?
Joe: “Time to Challenge the Status Quo” means that society is at a very important period of time from which we can make a major impact on the next generation. Challenging the status quo is all about progressing and learning to adapt to a changing world. Those resistant to change typically are the ones causing the problems in society and creating negative ideology towards specific individuals and/or groups. This, of course, is not a great example to set for the next generation of human beings, so change is necessary to create the best society we can.
HOKA: What is your advice to anyone who might be facing adversity right now?
Joe: Realize you are not alone and that you must be brave even in the face of negativity. You could save someone’s life with your bravery to stand up against opposition, and you could make the world a better place for millions.
HOKA: How can people support you in your mission to create equity in the sport of trail running?
Joe: Be kind to one another, be inviting to those who look different and be willing to engulf yourself in new cultures.
Follow Joe on Instagram and learn more in HOKA ONE ONE: Time to Challenge the Status Quo:
“I’m a triathlete that just happens to have autism. And I’m going to be awesome.
Most people don’t understand autism. If I can show people that someone with autism can be a successful triathlete, then it will motivate people.
Autism is an advantage. I am very focused, and I’m not easily distracted.