How Ultramarathoner Jordan Marie Daniel Is Helping Other Athletes Find a Platform to Change the World

Since organizing her first advocacy event in 2016 — the Run for Water rally in Washington D.C. to welcome the Standing Rock youth who ran 2,000 miles in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline — Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel has been committed to drawing attention to underrepresented communities, both through sport and her Rising Hearts grassroots organization.

That mission gained her national media attention in 2019, when she competed in the Boston Marathon with a red handprint painted over her mouth and said prayers at each mile for missing and murdered indigenous women.

Although the coronavirus shut down races in 2020 and early this year, it has not slowed Daniel’s activism efforts.

Last year, when the injustices among Black men and women rose to the forefront, Daniel offered her support, running 2.23 miles in February in memory of Ahmaud Arbery, as part of #FinishTheRun. And last year she added the names of Nina Pop, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor to her prayer list during runs.

“With the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, it’s been a very big reminder to me that I have so much more to learn and I need to do my part — not just for my own community, but I need to be there for others,” said the athlete-activist. “For us to fight for transformational change, we need to understand each other, we need to hear each other’s experiences to truly understand what is happening, to understand these systems that have caused harm for our communities and how we can collectively come together to fight back.”

Bringing Athletes Together

Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel
Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel, shot exclusively for FN.
CREDIT: Devin Whetstone

Through her Rising Hearts grassroots organization, Daniel put into motion multiple initiatives in late 2020 and early this year to further her goal. Most recently, the professional runner — who also works full-time as the outreach and project manager at UCLA — launched Running with Purpose, a collective that will use running as a platform for social action.

“I know I’m not the only runner who has intersected their love of running and advocacy. Especially since my prayer run, I have met and have come across many strong advocates within their sport, not even just in running,” Daniel said.

Running with Purpose will start with 25 people, who will be selected through an application process, now open through the end of March. (An announcement of the selected runners is expected in mid-April.) After the group has been finalized, it will organize virtual runs that support each athlete’s cause, with aid from corporate backers including EliteFeats, Rabbit and more.

Daniel said she has received more than 65 applications so far and that they have been nothing short of inspiring.

“All of them have resonated with me so much,” said the 33-year-old. “Even those who are coming from a space of never doing this before and want to take action, want to contribute, want to be an ally. A lot of them sound consistent in the message of: This is for the next generation, this is for my children, this is an issue near and dear to me. Some want to raise funds for cancer research because of a loved one. Those are the things I want to learn more about. I want us to learn about each other and to support each other.”

To accomplish her advocacy mission, Daniel has garnered support from her brand sponsors, which include Rabbit and Ultimate Direction, as well as Altra, which she signed with in September 2020. “I see these sponsorships as not just for me. It’s a privilege that I have, but it’s a resource that I want to share with everybody, and my community, specifically,” she said.

Though her relationship with Altra is still new Daniel said the sneaker brand has been nothing but supportive. “On the 360-mile prayer run that I was on in September [from Bears Ears to Salt Lake City] with 10 other natives, I asked Altra to donate a pair of shoes to all of the runners, thinking they were going to say no because it would have been a tight turnaround,” she recalled. “But they said yes, shipped them overnight and we got the runners new shoes.”

That support also has extended beyond product. “They’ve let me write blogs for them to talk about my experience, they’ve shared the virtual runs in the campaigns and helped me give back into my community,” Daniel said. “And I’ve recommended some of [the Native runners from the September event] to get on the [community focused run group] Red Team with Altra, so now we have more Indigenous representation within that program, which I’m really excited about.”

A Matter of Inclusion

Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel
Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel, shot exclusively for FN.
CREDIT: Devin Whetstone

Aside from her new Running with Purpose team, Daniel also is developing Running on Native Lands. That program aims to make land acknowledgements at race events common practice, while giving back to the communities from whom the land is borrowed and making more runners feel included and respected.

Daniel said discussions have already begun with race coordinators, and some may start to participate as early as May.

“Seven partners have reached out and I’ve had conversations with them to talk about what they’re able to do — one of them being Western States 100 [slated for June in California],” Daniel said. “One we’re hoping to work with is Boston Athletic Association. I would love to see a big event like that give back in that way. We also have some local race events and kid youth trail running camps that want to start doing this as well.”

And if that isn’t enough, Daniel is producing several films slated for release in 2021, including the documentary “The Sacred & The Snake,” due out in the fall. It tells the story of what happened at Standing Rock in 2016 and the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She also is the executive producer of a Running with Purpose film series, which was conceptualized to support the run club.

“There are so many incredible people who have stories to tell, and this Running with Purpose film series is going to help elevate those stories and have direct calls to action of how people can support [causes] after the film concludes,” Daniel explained.

Already, she has 30 people she’d like to feature. “We did some filming to create a teaser to introduce the film series. We’re going to use that to kickstart fundraising for the series. And we’re going to be looking for partnerships and collaborators who want to invest in this project,” said Daniel.

As she strives to build a more equitable and empathetic world, Daniel has faced her share of frustrations during her journey. She confessed that the advocacy work can often be emotionally draining. And she has been disappointed in some past partners, who didn’t share her commitment to the cause.

In fact, she recalled sitting in on athlete diversity and inclusion trainings that failed to acknowledge her and her community.

“I’m constantly the Indigenous person always speaking up in these trainings,” Daniel said. “Indigenous peoples are constantly fighting their own erasure, and it’s exhausting to have to be that constant voice to speak up. You’re supposed to lead diversity and inclusion training, antiracism training, but you’re not including other communities that are experiencing hate crimes, that have been murdered, that have been taken, that have experienced police brutality.”

She continued, “We have this incredible momentum of change right now. People want to do better to create safer, diverse, inclusive environments. This is the time to be collectively talking about them together.”

Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel
Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel, shot exclusively for FN.
CREDIT: Devin Whetstone
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