Finding Mindfulness in Running

Like most people, my relationship with running has changed over time.

I first fell in love with running when I was 12. I ran every day that I could and wore out my running path like the playlist I repeated on my iPod. It was a straight two-mile shot down Lincoln Street to get to Evanston’s lakefront. I never timed myself and I didn’t think about my performance - I just ran.

Once I got to the lake, I always stopped to take in the view. The lakefront’s path wrapped around Northwestern University’s campus, and in the background, Chicago’ skyline outlined the horizon. I didn’t know it then, but I know now that I loved this ritual because I found stillness through movement. It was simple, free, and it felt amazing.


In high school, I joined the cross country team. I was nervous that my simplistic approach to running would not align with the sport. However, I finished in second place for my first two mile race. Although I loved being a part of the running community, I always felt like an imposter because I never wore a watch and was never concerned with my times. I just wanted to run.

Towards the end of high school, life began to feel heavier. My family was enduring a difficult time, and it weighed heavily on me. Coincidentally, after a season of underperformance, I found out I had developed bilateral tibial stress fractures. I began to resent my changing body, and took a break from running. That break turned into a year-long hiatus from running, and that resentment morphed into debilitating low self-esteem.

When I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for college, I knew I had to take steps to heal. I joined a vinyasa yoga studio and started going to classes every day. With each class, I returned to that place I cherished by the lake front. Once again, I found stillness through movement. I began to cultivate a practice of mindfulness that transcended every area of my life. I adopted a plant-based lifestyle and involved myself with community service and social justice organizations.

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After several months of solely practicing yoga, I worked up the courage to go on a run. I started by running and walking, and slowly but surely I started running twenty-five miles a week. I fell in love with running again.  This time, I had a newfound sense of gratitude for my body and all of its capabilities. I ran throughout college, but was still intimidated to join a running group.

In 2016, I moved to Harlem to attend Columbia University School of Nursing. I discovered Harlem Run on Instagram, and was instantly drawn to its emphasis on community, activism, and empowerment. My first experience at a Monday night run was electric. The people were so kind, fun, and supportive. It was the first time that my personal running philosophy felt at home in a community of runners. It was only fitting that I first get to know Harlem in this way.

The familiar feeling of feet on pavement, instead of leading to Lake Michigan, joined others in winding through the streets of New York City. I realized that running with people who have shared values and goals affected my running experience in a profound way. After a year of running with Harlem Run, I have shaved off nearly a minute and a half off of my mile time and have felt more confident as a runner than ever before.

Running is still a meditative refuge for me. But now, it is so much more. Thanks to Harlem Run, my relationship with running has changed for the better. I now view it as a vehicle for health promotion, community building, and social change.

- Claire

Harlem Run News - November 2017

3rd Annual Harlem Turkey Trot - Thurs, Nov. 23, 2017

Our holiday tradition of enjoying some miles as a community right before we spend time with family, friends and loved ones is back. This year we have commemorative shirts available as well.



There is still space for those looking to retreat with like-minded individuals and grow together abroad. Join us in Costa Rica, February 8-12, 2018. For more information and registration application please CLICK HERE.

Additional Screenings Scheduled for DC (12/3) and Brooklyn (12/5)

For Tickets And More Information


2017 NYC Marathon Cheer Shirts and Running Kits are now available in our Gear Shop.
(Photos by Terria Clay)

Harlem Run Global: Berlin Marathon 2017

This past September Alison and I had the honor of taking a trip to Berlin in preparation for the marathon. We would’ve loved to be the ones running, but on this journey we were set to cheer others on.



Early on Wednesday we met up at the pop-up store near Moritzplatz and took a 45-minute bus ride along with our other #TeamUA members (District Running Collective and Resident Runners) and runners from all over Europe to an old, abandoned CIA listening station in Teufelsberg. The tagline for their campaign is #RunVerboten, which means “Run Forbidden”. We literally ran through grounds closed off to the public, plastered with beautiful works of grafitti. We ran to multiple stations of calisthenics led by endurance athletes and made it to the top of the structure, where the night was closed out to the sounds of a local hip-hop artist on the rise!


After sight-seeing the remainder of the week, courtesy of our two feet and 24-hour bike rentals, it was time to cheer on the runners! The entire week we saw great running weather, but the day of the marathon it started pouring! We missed the rain making it out to 21KM (13.1mi) marker, but the runners didn’t. Weather can often throw a wrench in your plans of attaining your goal, but you just have to push through it. That’s exactly what everyone did. Alison & I might not have been running, but we were all in with the cheer squad. First it was the halfway mark and then we set up shop at 36.5KM!



We were out for a while, and saw so many familiar faces, including Eric & Ray (Resident Runners) as well as Cliff & Matt (District Running Collective). There were a lot of fast runners out on that course, but we’re always aware of those who take on the 26.2 mile challenge and take a bit longer to finish. We remained out as long as we could for runners finish 5 hours and greater. We’ll do the same thing when we cheer at Mile 22 for the upcoming NYC Marathon.

But first things first...anyone register for the lottery of the 2018 Berlin Marathon? Let us know if you get in. Most importantly, let us know if you’ll be cheering with us at Mile 22 for the NYC Marathon.

How Harlem Run Helped Me Become a Runner

So, how do I begin to tell my running story? I was always athletic and into sports - baseball, softball, football... but never really considered myself a runner. In 2014, I started doing Spartan Races and I loved it. Climbing, running, and doing obstacle challenges for miles in the mountains of Pennsylvania, Jersey and Vermont was a rush for me. Difficult doesn't begin to explain the experience. It was amazing and dreadful all at the same time. Yet, I still didn't consider myself a runner.

... But then a friend invited me to run a 10k in Roosevelt Island and I thought for the first time about what it meant to be a "runner".  For all the years that I spent as an athlete, I took the sport of running for granted. I knew as I started to prepare for those 6 miles that I was in for a rude awakening. 


   As I began my very first 10k, I took off thinking it would be easy. By mile 2, I was done. I was running a 9 minute pace and ran out of gas very quickly. I ran-walked the rest off the way to the finish, but felt humbled by the experience. This is when I said to myself, 'Take your time buddy. Pace yourself, breathe, don't think too much. Keep going.' I finished the run, and knew that running was something I wanted to continue to challenge myself with.

 By 2016, I started doing less Spartan races and more NYRR races. I became a member learned about the 9+1 program which grants you entry to the NYC Marathon ... Even typing it gives me chills. While waiting at one of my 9 qualifying races, I noticed a super excited young lady who I now know as Lisa. She was smiling and seemed so positive and excited to run this race we had in Central Park.


I saw her shirt with the Harlem Run logo on it. I didn't really pay it much attention, but then I began to see her at more races and we became friends on Instagram. She invited me to run on Mondays and Thursdays. After months of seeing her Instagram pics, I decided to give it a try. Thank you, social media, for introducing me to the world of group running.

        When I decided to come to a run for the first time, I remember feeling nervous because I was going to meet new people I had never met before. As I arrived at 125th St for bag check, I noticed two females walking towards me, smiling, positive and just happy. I reached out my hand to greet them and one of them hugged me, I said to myself, 'Ok I guess we're hugging!' lololol her name was Alison the other was Raydime, and my Harlem Run life was born. 


      Being only 2 weeks away from the NYC Marathon, I feel more thankful than ever to Harlem Run for being so supportive and making me finally feel like a runner. I can't wait to run the streets of New York and rep this crew. I'm also extremely grateful to the Saturday Morning Run Crew, especially April for kicking my butt all year long. This will be my first NYC MARATHON and I'm feeling excited, scared, nervous, and determined. But ready. Let's get it done. 

- Abbie


Reblog: The Art of Pacing

Hey everyone! With our group ever-expanding, we like to remind everyone about our pace groups, how they work, and how you make the most out of our group runs. For that, we’d like to throw this week’s blog to a post written by Captain Amir a few years back. What is your favorite part about our pace groups? Drop us a line in the comments to let us know!


Week in and week out we host our Monday Night Runs and Thursday Night Speedwork sessions If you have been to a run or two, you are aware of our pace groups: 8min, 9min, 10min, 11min, 12min, Run/Walkers, and Walkers. Roughly that is the pace you will run each mile. We stay within range of 3-6 miles, so you’re in good hands and being challenged at the same time. If it’s your first time have no worries, because you’ll do just fine.

For our weekly runs it is best to stay with your pace leader, or better yet a partner, if you’re not too far behind. We’re not here to tell you what to do, so ever so often others might push forward ahead, which is up to you--since the route is available ahead of time. As long as you’re not wearing headphones, respecting the community, and running your thing.


I’ve most recently had the pleasure of pacing Aubrey (herald of the #YoungLegendz) for the United NYC Half and Alison for the Bear Mountain Endurance Challenge Marathon Relay. That was Aubrey’s first half marathon and Alison’s first time running a tough trail run.

I often will humbly ask if others would like to be paced, if I am around and don’t have any particular goal in mind, because I’ve learned so much from following behind pacers myself. It wasn’t that long ago that I ran with Coach Shayne and we both qualified for Boston. I wasn’t always comfortable asking, but I was also reluctant to push myself.


Pacers are nearly always offered at races. You can and should always inquire about them, especially if you have a goal time in mind. Pacers are meant to be the constant, consistent marker of letting you know where you stand relative to your intended goal. If you’re behind your pacer you probably need to pick it up a bit. If you’re ahead of your pacer, maybe you’re going out to fast or you’re comfortable and will end up pushing past your goal. 


Don’t be afraid to share your goal with someone, so they can hold you accountable. You live and you learn. There are never any failures, because you will learn through your own personal experience. With a bunch of races coming up for me in the next few months, I have my pacers in mind and I'm ready to hold myself to accountable with them.


If you’re running find you a running partner, whether you just want to enjoy the run or set a goal and achieve it. The run is all yours. You get to choose what you want to do and have others with you, should they also agree to join you.

Celebrate the small victories, and don’t be afraid to be great!

- Captain Amir

How Fitness Changed Me

I've accomplished a lot since getting involved in fitness and running, but by no means did it come easy, either mentally or physically. Before I began my fitness journey, it was 2012 and I just got out of a failed relationship of 5 1/2 years. I was left with some insecurities and resorted to heavy drinking to cope. I felt as if I had no identity if I wasn't involved with someone, so drinking would help me escape and allowed me to avoid dealing with my problems.

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Eventually, I turned to getting in shape when I realized my previous lifestyle was becoming harmful. I had a wake-up call when my weight reached almost 200lbs. Not too long after starting my fitness journey I suffered a ruptured achilles.

I remember the doctor telling me that I probably wouldn't be back to my usual active self immediately after surgery, and I had 8 months to loom over that. It was the lowest feeling I felt. I ended up relapsing and turned to alcohol again to cope with my situation. After I was able to tolerate the pain from the injury and no longer needed my pain killers I began selling them so I could continue buying alcohol. I was back in a dark place again, and new I needed to snap out of it.

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As soon as I was cleared to begin rehab after my injury and start working out again, all I could think about was recovering and physically getting back to where I was before the injury. I also realized I could my past experiences as an opportunity for a brand new start. I worked my butt off and starting see results physically and mentally.

A few years later, I finally mustered the courage to investigate how my father passed away 10 days before my 2nd birthday. After learning that a drug overdose was the cause of death, my direction suddenly changed, and I knew that I wanted to begin bettering myself. I became motivated to be a beacon of hope and to inspire others through my actions. For some time I was living for my selfish and destructive desires, but hearing how my father died and how I was just continuing the vicious circle that plagued my community by distributing drugs really hit home.

Photo by Javie Gomez

Photo by Javie Gomez

I've completed some tough races - 50 miler, obstacle course marathons, and several ultras - not only for me, but to have others believe that it is possible for them to also achieve a comeback story of their own. I never turn down an opportunity to talk to those getting their journey started and I always encourage them to keep going because they never know who they're inspiring.

In 2015 I became affiliated with City Challenge Race, an organization that hosts obstacle races but also donates their time and money to helping out wherever they're needed, i.e- volunteering at homeless shelters, hosting free boot camp sessions for those trying to get in shape, donating money to charities we believe in, etc.

In 2015 I also began running with Harlem Run. During my time with them I have learned to remove my loner mentality that I've had for so long. I've also embraced being a part of a team that has come to feel like family. I appreciate everything the Harlem Run family has done for me and what they've done - and continue to do - in making change in the community of Harlem. I've learned to no longer hide from my past but to embrace it and allow it to light the way for my future.

"Just remember the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour."


- Jesse

Harlem Run News - October 2017

Harlem Run Retreat 3.0 - Costa Rica

Thank you so much to those who have secured their spots with down payments. We are in communication with those who have already expressed interest. It is not late, if you haven't completed the online application yet. Do so as soon as possible, and we will be sure to follow up in kind. October is already here, so secure your spot today. We are saying goodbye to the cold weather and hello to a warmer climate in Costa Rica. The dates are February 8-12 and the cost for singles is $1050 and $1800 for pairs in shared bed (up to 4). For more information follow the link below


NYC Marathon Cheer Station & After Party


We think that we found our sweet spot along the course, and that is "MILE 22"!!!! This upcoming November 5th we'll be back where all participants will meet us at the top of Marcus Garvey Park (i.e. 124th Street and 5th Avenue). Stay tuned for opportunities leading up to Marathon Day for those looking to cheer, where we'll design cheer signs.

Details for the After Party will drop soon, but you will know first-hand. We're so excited for all our runners, walkers and run/walkers. There is nothing like running through the five boroughs, and it also a memorable experience to cheer them on. 

We are hosting our 3rd Annual Harlem Turkey Trot with Harlem United. Entry is absolutely free, but if you register via the link below we will enter you in our raffle Under Armour gear. Looking forward to having some our regulars, community residents, and out-of-towners. Follow the link below for more information.


A Word From Our Marathoners!

With just a little over a month left until one of our favorite days of the year - the New York City Marathon - we wanted to take this time to check in with a few of our runners and see how training is going for them. We are beyond excited for the big day and can't wait to welcome you all to Harlem as you pass our cheer station. 

Are you training for the NYC Marathon - or one that is also coming up? How is training going for you? Drop us a line in the comments to let us know how you are!


Training has been exhilarating - and exhausting! This is my first marathon, so it's a pretty amazing journey, as every week I learn more about what my body can do. I'm learning how to pull back as well as how and when to push myself hard. I'm grateful for the love and support of my running family -- I could never do this alone. 



Training for two fall marathons has been a roller-coaster. At first I was trying to figure out which one was "more important" to train for, but that just made my head spin. I think I finally hit my stride using a virtual training program and trusting my running ability more. I'm looking forward to crossing both finish lines healthy and pain free thanks to my coach and the support of my Harlem Run family.



A Haiku on my training:

On Running

Rain or heat, I run

Log miles until November

better Together


Want to read about more of our marathoners-in-training? Check out Alison's blog post, Marathon Prep Tips from Members of Harlem Run, where more of our HR family speak about the challenges and highlights of their training thus far!

For the Love of Harlem (Run)

I have had an eleven year relationship with Harlem and it just keeps getting better and better with time. The love and energy that we have poured into one another in the community is nothing short of amazing. At times, I smile and think, 'Jeez you have this much feelings towards a place?' However it makes sense - I went to college in Harlem, started working my first "real" job in Harlem, met my now-fiancé in Harlem, and found Harlem Run. All in all Harlem has been good to me.


Distance running has not always been for me. I've always been an active individual willing to try new things and ready to take on a challenge, but running - aside from a 10-12 minute warmup on the treadmill - was never a real thought to me ... But, flashback to 2016 to a vision board party at my home where my friend, Lindsie, places on her vision board: 5k, 13.1, 26.2 and asks me to journey with her. Reluctant with a bit of intrigue and for solidarity purposes, it goes on my board too.


My first "official" run was the NYRR Percy Sutton 5K in Harlem in August 2016. I remember finishing that race and feeling an incredible high. I was so proud because I did not stop once and I was pacing my co-worker before I even knew what "pacing" was in the running community.  On this day I also won 2 tickets to see the Color Purple Musical on Broadway at the race festivities.  

I thought to myself, 'If running is always like this then I'm definitely doing it again!' I signed up for more runs but quickly realized running isn’t always glorious. Running is downright hard and ugly at times while still being powerful and emotional. It is just you and your thoughts, you and your body, and it can be daunting for some. Through running I gained even more control of my mind and body. I found that I could will myself to do anything.


 Still on a runner's high I thought 'Hey, why not enter the drawing for the NYC United Half Marathon? It’s not like you're going to get selected."  Well, I got in and was both excited and terrified. How am I going to run 13.1 miles?  I've only run 4 miles max! 

Enter stage right: Harlem Run. I slid into Alison M Desir's DM aka "Powdered Feet" inquiring about running with Harlem Run.  I showed up and was met with a smiling face by a fellow runner who said, "It's only my 4th time here but you're going to love it." Thanks, Lindsey.  I ran with Alison and Raydime to Central Park where we met the larger group for 7pm.

Shortly after, the famous question arose; "Is it anyone first time tonight? Raise your hand."  In keeping with the New Year spirit we were then told to turn to our neighbor and tell them what you plan to do more of this year. I turned to Mona and I said "I plan to run with Harlem Run on a consistent basis." I showed up the following week and I kept showing up. In showing up I created bonds with the most amazing people and if for nothing else for this I am truly grateful.


Before I knew it August 2017, my running anniversary, was here. While reflecting I realized I had    completed 2 half marathons - United Half and Brooklyn Half - and will qualify for the NYC Marathon.  Running the Percy Sutton 5K in 2017 was so exciting for me. I felt I came full circle from that first "official" run and it had so much meaning .

I PR'd in more ways than one.  I improved on my time. I received the best hardware ever - bling bling - from my best friend ever and gained a run-family like no other.


I would have never imagined running would become such a staple in my life and continue to bring me immense joy.  I'm happy I stuck with that New Year Resolution.  Thank You Harlem Run for being accepting, kind, and all-around bad ass. Thank you for being a part of my story. Thank you for being a part of my life.


-Jodie K Alexander