Celebrating Community, Confidence, and Fitness at the Harlem One Miler
This past weekend, Harlem Run hosted the first ever #Harlem1Miler, a community run in Marcus Garvey Park to benefit Harlem United. The night before the race, the weatherman had predicted that an apocalypse was headed our way, so we all said our prayers and sent good wishes and vibes into the universe that the weather would hold up. Kai and I woke up at 5am to start setting up the race course for 6:30am with the type of excitement you might expect from young children waiting in line for ice cream. To say we were PUMPED would be an understatement. With each new volunteer that joined us, the energy grew. Suddenly it was 8:30am; registration was open and people were arriving for the race- this race was really happening!
When my co-director, Rachel Cutler, and I first sat down to talk about this event only 6 weeks ago, we had no idea what to expect. There were the obvious obstacles such as getting the word out and finding sponsors, but there were also less obvious ones, too, like anxiety about putting together a brand new event on Father’s Day. Rachel and I were lucky to have surrounded ourselves with a great team of volunteers who helped make the day possible. With over 150 people in attendance, ages ranging from 5 months to 65 years old, and people of all sizes, colors, and abilities running, walking, jogging, and shuffling around Marcus Garvey Park, it really was an incredible day for the community.
Since Sunday, I have heard from volunteers, participants, and people cheering in the crowd that they too felt the power and energy of the community and were encouraged by the love that was there. It’s only appropriate to share some of their stories with you here. I hope that if you are wondering whether running or exercise is for you, that you read this blog and see pictures from Sunday and know that it absolutely is. Join us!
I was just pleased with how welcoming it was to totally out of shape folks like myself :)
With all that life throws at you, it's easy to just relax and not help out. This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of volunteering for Harlem United and Harlem Run’s first Harlem One-Miler. This opportunity allowed me to give back to the community and connect with people from all walks of life in NYC.
It felt great cheering on all the different runners/walkers while ensuring that we were all taking care of our responsibilities. It was also great when we were approached by different runners who not only expressed their appreciation for the event, but also for how organized we were.
Overall, the excitement that comes with being social with everyone while still making healthy choices has me considering becoming a runner. We shall see what types of adventures Harlem Run/Harlem United takes me on next.
Due to an injury I was unable to run this Sunday. While I was upset at first, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I have ran several races before, but this was my opportunity to be "behind the scenes". I love Harlem and anything that uplifts it. The Harlem One-Miler and groups like Harlem United and Harlem Run do just that. Growing up in Harlem, I rarely got to see my community in such a positive light. Promoting fitness and well-being for everyone in our ever-changing community is wonderful.
Although I hate waking up so early in the morning on a weekend, volunteering for the Harlem 1 Miler was worth it. I got to meet new people and cheer on all different types of athletes. It was especially fun to cheer the little ones on. I invited several of my family and friends, many of whom are either new to fitness or are working on becoming healthier. This event gave them an opportunity to set a goal, build and boost their commitment to fitness, and introduce them to the world of running. To add the cherry onto the metaphorical sundae, this race also made our relationships stronger by giving us one more thing to relate to. Because of the sense of community and fitness, it was truly a perfect day in Harlem.
To say that I had a great time at the Harlem One-Miler would be a huge understatement. Aside from beaming with pride for my best friend and Harlem Run founder, Alison Desir, on the success of the event, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from everyone who came out on Sunday. As I struggled to make my way around the course in the thick, muggy heat, people from the surrounding neighborhoods were out on the sidelines, cheering and giving high-fives to all the runners. Their joyful smiles and the energy from the crowd at the finish line was contagious. I ended my race filled to the brim with the love and joy that I’d absorbed from everyone along my run.
In 2013, Alison coined the motto “Find Meaning on the Run” and started a community-based movement to promote running and fitness as a means to achieve not only physical but also emotional well-being. I drew inspiration to start running from my dear friend and her brilliant motto and have learned so much about myself and life in general over the past 2 years. I didn’t win my heat or run my fastest mile on Sunday but that wasn’t the point. Instead, I was reminded of the power of love and community and the ways in which they promote a sense of well-being, self-esteem and most importantly, joy on an individual level. I left the race on Sunday with a smile, grateful heart and a feeling of accomplishment. That's the biggest win I could ever hope for.