How Fatherhood Impacted My Sport

In 2016 I got to experience my first New York Marathon. It was a huge accomplishment for me and I immediately knew I'd do it again. I just didn't know how different it would be the second time around. Longer runs, more mileage right? I was prepared. Right?

A few weeks after finishing, my wife and I found out that she was pregnant and I was excited. I would be running the NYC Marathon and my son would be there to witness me cross the finish line. Who wouldn't be excited? While I could envision that, at the time I couldn't imagine how it would impact - and change - my training for the 2017 Marathon. Becoming the father of a newborn baby only 4 months before Marathon Day was both a great motivation and challenge to making it to race day.

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Being a father is an amazing experience. Like running, you can prepare for parenthood as much as possible but you still don't know what it will be once the day arrives. My son, Noble, has endless energy and joy that makes fatherhood fun but also exhausting. And it's those sleepless nights that made my 2017 training the toughest it's ever been. It was one of the hardest things that I've had to do mentally.  

My son came at the very beginning of marathon training. That meant getting up two to three times a night to support my wife with breast feeding and adjusting to this new life in our home. The first couple of days were great - the excitement of the baby had us going but when it came time for me to start my training runs, my body was not happy. My legs were sluggish and heavy at times.

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What I quickly learned was that training was not going to go the way I had planned. Instead of running out to train while my son slept, I sometimes needed sleep myself. My legs felt "out of practice" and more importantly my mind was in a completely different place trying to find my way as a dad. In a weird way the marathon felt both super important and also secondary to my larger life. The stakes were higher in so many ways and I knew I'd have to take a different physical and mental approach to the marathon this year.

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To start, I had to learn to run on my son's schedule, not my own. It wasn't always easy. For the first few runs my legs didn't even feel like my own. My pacing was all over the place and it almost felt like I was starting from scratch.

Another side effect of new fatherhood were the bad eating habits. When you're exhausted you eat what you can, when you can. I wasn't eating unhealthy things but I wasn't eating regularly and my meal sizes varied, drastically, depending on how much time I had to eat. This definitely added another layer of difficulty to my training.

I knew that I wasn't training in the most optimal way but I also knew that I didn't have very many alternatives considering my priority had to be my son. There were times when I had to consider that I wouldn't be running this year's marathon and even thought about deferring until 2018. However, there were also times when I remembered how important it would be for me to complete it another year and have that medal to share with my son. So I pushed through.

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I did shorter training runs and signed up for races that could count as my long runs. It took a lot of my mental and physical effort to push through each of those runs and races, especially when my body and brain were not fully cooperating. Overall, the process took a toll on my confidence and my ability to run at a pace that I was normally accustomed.  It also didn't help that I was hoping to PR this year. Sometimes that goal felt like a complete fantasy. Soon, just finishing became the only goal I could envision.

Throughout my training I had good runs and bad runs and races that left me feeling strong and others that filled me with doubt but through them all I kept my son and wife in mind and used them as motivation to finish.

That same motivation held true for race day. I knew they were sitting in the grandstand waiting to see me and I couldn't let them down. On marathon day I started out strong and felt good all the way through Brooklyn but was hit with terrible legs cramps going up 1st avenue and hit a mental wall where I was questioning whether I'd make it to the finish line.

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In the moment, I can honestly say that the only thing that kept me going was knowing that I didn't want to let my son down. No, he didn't know what was going on or even know what a Marathon is but it was important to me that he see me cross - and that I get to see him. So I ran, and walked sometimes, but kept going. I can't describe how it felt to see my son as I approached the finish and see him smiling at all of the excitement around him. It felt so good to finish and be able to put that medal around his neck. The 4 Minute PR didn't hurt either!

While being a new father made this year's marathon tougher than ever, having my son also made it super rewarding and gave me something to share with him for a lifetime.

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- Shawn

The Women at Rikers Island Won't Let Me Quit

3 disc bulges in my lower back. Piriformis Syndrome in both glutes. Sciatic nerve pain in my right leg. Wrist sprain. Nerve pain in my neck. 8 months of physical therapy. All of the aforementioned happened to me shortly after signing up for last year's NYC Marathon.

After running casually for 20+ years, I’d never run a marathon in my life, so I made the decision last year that upon turning 40 years old, I’d mark this milestone by completing a marathon. Though I wanted to go into race day healthy, I still found myself Piriformis and glute pain right up until the marathon ... along with pretty gnarly knee pain that I somehow developed along the way.

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I also knew that due to my injuries, I was grossly undertrained - I knew it and I felt it, but my reality has always been for my spirit to not let me quit, no matter the circumstances. It’s not so much my own fighting warrior spirit that has stubbornly kept me going to the gym, running on Monday nights with HR, and completing races along the way ... Much of my fighter’s energy has come from my clients at work, who have not let a single day pass where they haven’t mentioned how excited they are to see me continue my running journey, despite any setbacks or challenges.

Who are my clients? They are incarcerated women at Rikers Island’s all-female Jail, Rose M Singer Center, lovingly referred to as “Rosie’s”. As a a social worker at RMSC, I am tasked with running therapeutic groups with the women throughout the day. Given my life-long love of running, I’ve managed to incorporate running and discussions about physical activity into all my work. Most of the time, the women think I’m nuts for loving running so much. But more so than not, I get a lot of positive responses and genuine curious questions about how this passion of mine for running began.

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After hearing a few months before my marathon from my physical therapist that I should essentially cancel any idea of running, I started talking about running less and less with the women, ultimately silencing all talk of the marathon as it hurt too much to even discuss. However, my attentive ladies started noticing that I stopped talking about running and started calling me out on it! They began asking, "What’s happened Ms. G? What’s happened to all your running ramblings?"

Trying to ignore, deflect, and side track their questions was IMPOSSIBLE as these are some of the most persistent and determined women you will ever meet. To do so would not only be offensive, but it would go against my practice in transparency and genuineness. Finally, seeing I couldn’t get around their questions, I shared my prognosis and injuries and that I ultimately wouldn’t be able to run this year.

I expected the women to be disappointed upon hearing this but instead I got: "No Ms. G, get outta here ... Even if you walk, YOU GOT THIS", "Don’t give up! You’re the strongest and most dopest person we know ... rock that shit out!", "We’re cheering for you Ms. G!", and so on. This went on for months.

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Hearing this day in and out started sinking in and where I, for months, dealt with the despair of not being able to run my first marathon, I now started thinking it was possible. The encouragement continued constantly from not just the inmates but from our uninformed personnel alike - all ranks. It became so that I could no longer NOT make an attempt to run. 

 I ultimately made the decision to run my first marathon. Physically, I was not ready, but mentally, I was able to dip into that fighter's spirit to tackle scary thoughts and feelings. On race day, my heart was FULL knowing that I had the backing of 700+ women and 400+ uniformed personnel, who were all tracking and rooting me on along my way through 26.2 miles of unknown challenges.

Had it not been for the ladies of Rosie's, this would've never been impossible. My form of gratitude to them was truly in completing. Seeing that their voices are not often heard, listened to or cared for by societal judgment, I ran so that their voices could, and continue to ROAR. Thank you to my ladies for helping me renew & find my spirit!

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- Vanessa

Harlem Run News - January 2018

Welcome to 2018! Thank you for following all things revolving around the movement known as Harlem Run. Whether you've joined us this past year or been watching us from a far; enjoy the recap video we've created to take a look back at 2017...

Are you in for the new year challenge?

We are 7 days into the New Year, which means 7 days into our first challenge of the new year. If you haven't started logging your workouts yet, there is still time. Below are the RULES:

We are looking to get everyone moving during the first 31 days of the year, setting habits that will carry forth throughout the new year!

1. Each day (ONCE a day), participants will be responsible for tracking their INTENTIONAL EXERCISE via the following survey AND send a picture of their Garmin/phone/tracking device. Intentional exercise means when you head out for a walk or run; not counting all of the steps that you take in your apartment or moving around on your way to work. SURVEY LINK: bit.ly/HR31DayChallenge

2. The person with the most minutes of INTENTIONAL EXERCISE (running/walking/run-walking) will win; 30 minutes of intentional exercise a few times a week has been shown to have a positive impact on both mental and physical health!

3. We have chosen minutes over miles to equalize the challenge.

4. We encourage all participants to share their journey on social media using #HarlemRun and #HR31DayChallenge.

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Next month we will be embarking on our third retreat. This year we are heading out to Costa Rica. Thank you to everyone who has registered already, and if you've been on the fence of whether or not you should join in...REGISTER HERE today! There's still time, but we are down to our last few spots. We look forward to building community, getting vulnerable and exploring the limitless potential we all have!

WINTER IS HERE! And we have you covered. Head to BIGCARTEL to check out our current inventory and purchase NEW beanies, caps, and wool hats. Not included in the photo are our new all black, 3M-Reflective Cycling Caps! Purchase today and represent!

That's a Wrap on 2017!

Another year of running is in the books and we have to say ... 2017 may have been the best one yet! This year, we've managed to run dozens of races, take the Movement international, have more than 100 people rep Harlem Run during the NYC Marathon, celebrate new engagements & babies, and so many other great memories. As we close the book on this year, we wanted to know: What has your favorite Harlem Run memory been?

Below are just a few of our runners' best memories. Do you have some more that you want to share? Drop them in the comments! Thank you all for a great year ... We will see you in 2018!

xo,

Kayla, Resident Blogger

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Abbie

Competing my first NYC MARATHON

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Chris

The whole year was fantastic, and every weekly run was an adventure, but since 2017 marked my first marathon and the training that went along with it I have to say my favorite memory was turning from 5th onto 124th and soaking in all the incredible vibes from the Harlem Run Cheer Station! Just having the whole crew out being loud and supportive gave me all the energy I needed to finish strong and crush my goal time!

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Marvin

I have two. The first--always being welcomed with open arms by Alison and Amir. They made me feel like family in that instant. The second--the soul train line cheering runners/walkers back from their runs.

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Amir

Alison is the planner of us two, and I learn from her daily. The engagement this past July wasn't planned at all, but it turned out exactly the way I hoped and dreamed. The icing on the cake was having Terria take our engagement photos in November, which were the absolute best! Double whammy! S/O to Matt Ryb for capturing the original photos of the actual engagement and #AliMir is grateful for Terria Clay in capturing the spirit of our union to share with the world.

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Ben

I ran last year's Malcolm Relay and volunteered this year so my friend and two runners from Seattle could run with my team. I was able to check off a personal bucket list item: cross the finish line of a race eating food.

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Tricia

I did not get on the MXM Relay Race team! However, I made up my miles running from Brooklyn through Summer Streets, Central Park to Harlem meeting in front of Row House on time to be on the cheer squad finishing at 12.22 miles. Thanks Harlem Run. Keep winning and inspiring!

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Lisa

So many amazing memories in Paris, Chicago, Boston, and others. However, my favorite was running my first Marathon in NYC with people screaming and cheering. Nothing felt better than knowing you of you were at Mile 22 when I needed you. It's so funny thinking back, I still can’t believe my response to you all versus hugs and kisses. Thank you for all you do to push, inspire, and motivate people.

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Azura

My favorite memory was passing Alison’s photo outside of the Under Armour store in Philadelphia when heading back to my hotel the night before my first marathon. The nerves and anxiety had start to set in and seeing her photo after all the support she had provided over the months of training was so comforting (even if it was a little creep lol), like is Alison always watching? I instantly felt better and went back to my hotel feeling like it was a good omen and that I did indeed have it.

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Josh

That bolt of electricity the Harlem Run NYC Marathon cheer station sent out at Mile 22 to power us through to the end of the race. I'm already looking forward to that again in 2018.

Committed to the Run

Why do I run? Damn, that's a good question. My running journey started about 9-10 years ago. By no means was I committed, as I’d get random boosts of energy every couple weeks and go run 3-4 miles super late at night. Like most fitness experiences, I would eventually tail off and then start back up weeks/months later. I gave this inconsistency little thought, yet prescribed to this cyclical behavior for years.

I began running more consistently when I moved back to NYC. I learned about running crews via social media and thought it would be dope to link with one. One summer afternoon, I received a message from Lisa, a former colleague of mine. She invited me out to hang with Harlem Run and I gave her the typical “yeah, yeah...I’ll check it out.” Fast-forward a half year and I received another invite to an end of year run hosted by HR. I thought to myself, “Why not?” and committed to showing up.

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I felt an instant connection to the Harlem Run family. The love was so real -- contagious smiles, endless hugs, and ongoing encouragements before, during, and after the run. I appreciated being a part of something bigger than myself. I loved that this crew created an inclusive space for runners from all walks of life, races, ethnicities, genders, orientations, socioeconomic statuses, etc. Runners coming together for the common goal of building stronger versions of themselves. Runners who were becoming partners in the struggle and establishing lifelines.

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I continued running weekly with Harlem Run and signed up for some 5ks and 4 milers. I soon graduated to 10ks and then signed up for my first “big race”- the Brooklyn Half. After completing a couple half marathons, I had another crazy idea...why not sign up for the NYC Marathon lottery? My running crew encouraged this wild ambition and I ended up gaining entry. I simultaneously experienced a rush of excitement and fear. While training for this run, I had the pleasure of learning so much about myself--the good, the bad, and the ugly.

So back to my original question, why do I run? While I initially picked up running to boost my physical health & wellness, my main reason for running has changed. Running has been most impactful towards maintaining my mental health. Most people don't know this, but for years I've struggled with managing my own anxiety, fears, and generally feeling low about life at times. Seeing my Dad walk out on my family at an early age left little room for error as I put immense pressure on myself to succeed. This was a mindset that consumed the majority of my life. For years, I struggled to accept this reality and subconsciously perpetuated my own anxiety and self-doubt.

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Hindsight is 20/20. Reflecting on my own story, it's the struggle that deterred me from running more consistently when I was younger. I grew up hating the feeling of struggling...of not being enough, of not meeting expectations, of wanting to be more. I hated failure and maintained high expectations for myself...talk about a recipe for disaster. At times, running even triggered me as it reinforced this idea that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I would look at those who could run more than 6-8 miles at a time and play the comparing game. No bueno. Sure enough, I would abandon running until I was brave enough to give it another shot.

Most runners I know have a love/hate relationship with their beloved sport. I am no different. I say this because while we love to be challenged, this sport will humble you and unearth a lot of hidden truths about ourselves. Some truths are ones we've been long searching for and others are ones that we actively avoid at all costs. There is beauty in the struggle and without struggle there is no growth. Just like running, I’ve learned to lean into my discomfort and accept myself. With consistent effort, growth is possible. I am capable. I can and I will.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would run a marathon. Running has not only become one of my main coping strategies, but a proactive part of my self-care. Running helps to enhance some of the biggest passions in my life. I am a better husband, father, son, and educator because I run.

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- Victor

Marathon Memories: Terry K.

It’s hard to believe one of our favorite days of the year, the NYC Marathon, was almost a month away! This year was a particularly great year, with dozens of our runners repoing Harlem Run and plenty more out there cheering along the course.

We want to take the next few weeks to highlight some of our runners and cheerers incredible stories about the big day, and how their fitness journeys led them here. This week, we celebrate Terry! Read her story below, and be sure to comment with your favorite NYC Marathon memories. 

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As I slowly come off the high of an incredible first marathon experience, I end my 2017 running love letter - and almost 2 year Harlem Runniversary! - to New York City and my home sweet Harlem. Starting the year with the New York City Half Marathon and training across the city through new neighborhoods, I never would’ve imagined that running would become such a part of my identity and lifestyle.

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Since I was a teenager, part of my life revolved around being a hip-hop dancer. But over time, I became disconnected and increasingly anxious and stressed every time I stepped into a studio or on stage. I suddenly needed a new environment to find myself, remain active, and de-stress. Around this time, I met someone who shared with me his happiness in running. Although that relationship didn’t last, luckily the happiness in running did and I was able to turn it into something new for ME.

Through the amazing Harlem Run family, I have met some great people, built new friendships, and found the support to embrace my new identity and lifestyle as a runner - and now marathoner! From Monday Night Run, Thursday Speedwork, and 6:00am long runs with the Saturday Morning Run Crew (#SMRC), I couldn’t have been more prepared for my first New York City Marathon.

Running through the 5 boroughs was a moving experience; I get chills just writing about it! The quiet fog and sound of sneakers hitting the pavement over the Verrazano Bridge; miles of “go Terry! Get it girl!” through Brooklyn and Queens from complete strangers; coming off the Queensboro Bridge to the roar of 1st Ave.; cheers from the BX and catching some of the Harlem Run family along the way; and then of course running down 5th Ave. to Mile 22 where the tightest hugs awaited! 

I don’t think any training plan could’ve prepared me for what I was going to feel on the run but I’m glad there is no way to prepare for it and just live it. It’s pretty amazing what the body can endure and what you can accomplish. I don’t think there will be anything quite like your first marathon, especially New York City, but there will always be another marathon...I can’t believe I just ran 26.2 miles and I’m already talking about another one! Thanks Harlem Run :) 

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- Terry

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.

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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.

REGISTER

PURCHASE COMMEMORATIVE T-SHIRT

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
CLICK HERE

 

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