Van Cortlandt Trail Run Experiences

On August 2nd, the crew took a little field trip up to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to do a 6-mile run in the trails. It was an epic day filled with lots of hills, sweet fresh air, trail-running pups, yoga stretches, and of course, some good old Harlem Run bonding and deep conversation. We asked a few people to write about their experiences in the trails. Here's what Coach Cane, Malick, Nadia, and Wendy had to say.

We've all put in plenty of miles on city streets and parks in NYC. There's no shortage of roads, and they're a great place to train. But running on trails like those in Van Cortlandt Park can be fun, challenging, and make you a better runner.

Running on nature's trails can be beautiful and serene, but it also presents a different set of challenges than running on the road. You need to be more attentive, and can't "zone out" the way you can on the road or on a treadmill, otherwise you risk losing your balance or catching a foot on a root. Scan the terrain ahead (rather than directly below you) for potential obstacles. When running downhill, try to avoid "putting on the brakes". Instead, let gravity be your friend. Lean into the hill a little bit, and if you need to slow down, lean back, rather than relying on your quads to slow you down. Let your arms drift out to the side to help your balance. On the climbs, drive with your arms to help get your knees up, and feet off the ground. Lastly, don't worry too much about exact distances. As terrain becomes more challenging, it's obviously harder to maintain a given pace. On particularly technical trails, you'll often find yourself walking to negotiate the obstacles. Focus on time on your feet rather than miles.

-Coach Jonathon Cane

First of all i want to thank you guys for welcoming me into the group. I'm so happy to be part of a group of runners as amazing as Harlem Run. I'm always open to explore and try new things and my first time running in Van Cortlandt Park was amazing! I was not expecting to enjoy it that much. I actually thought we were going to be running on the track around the field until we just happened to cut across to that trail through what i call the jungle! It was a beautiful Sunday morning and a lot of people managed to make it out there including myself which is not easy for me to do . It was so great to be running in nature with the company of Rachel and Sean who guided me along the way. I felt more motivated than ever and  I can say that was the longest distance I have ran in years. Even though it's not easy to run up hills - man, I soon enough fell in love with those hills and they made me feel stronger! So I'm hoping that maybe we can do this trail run thing more often!

-Malick Sall

I'm a treadmill runner. The thought of running outdoors made me anxious, but I decided to give it a try with Harlem Run at Van Cortlandt Park. I was relieved when given the option to run a shorter distance. I decided to try out the 1.5 mile walk on the track. My small group started off walking but our leader soon encouraged us to jog. I ended up running along side another novice runner, Tai. Tai, as well as the chipmunks and birds, encouraged me as we ran at a steady pace. Tai and I decided to run around the track once more and ended up running 3 miles. It was nice to cheer others on as they finished their 3 and 6 mile runs. I most enjoyed the group strength session before heading over to brunch. Thanks to Harlem Run, I know I am capable of adventuring off the treadmill for a short or long run.


Sometimes, you have to get lost in order to find your destination. Let me explain. The morning of the Van Cortlandt Park Trail Run, I did something that I rarely do: I woke up BEFORE the alarm clock. Maybe it was my excitement, maybe I didn't want to hear the mouth of my friend and fellow book club member, Amir, or maybe I felt responsible for rallying the rest of the troops. Whatever the reason, I popped out of bed with a purpose.

However, my excitement slowly dwindled into disappointment. You see, I forgot my sneakers. And the last time I checked, you can't really do a trail run in flip flops. Never one to accept defeat, I NASCAR'ed my way back to my home in Brooklyn, picked up my sneakers, and headed back uptown. The next challenge for me was navigation. With only 30 minutes until start time, I whipped towards our destination, but soon realized that I drove to the other side of the park! In the interest of time and consideration, I called Amir and told him to go on without us.

Thankfully, Wendy, another member of our book club was in the right place at the right time and she represented on our behalf. While I embarked on finding the group, I thought about how much Harlem Run and the Book Club have in common. While we both serve our communities on different platforms, we have a common goal of bringing people together through encouragement and support while building relationships and making new friends. This thought motivated me even more to continue my course - feeling as if there was an added purpose to the day's journey.

As I traveled on, a peaceful energy flowed through the air and everyone seemed to be filled with its power. Neekee, another book club member, and I jogged along the skirts of the lake and watched a colorful crowd of people bouncing up and down in unison, cheering as they ran across the bridge. I late realized that this was my first encounter with Harlem Run.

So,  I didn't get to actually run with Harlem Run. But what I lost in experience, I gained in perception. From my vantage point, I was able to observe the spirit of the outdoors and the effect that it has on people. By not running with the group, I had the chance to see humanity in motion - the REAL human race. I witnessed how their camaraderie and support pushed people their plateaus and beyond their border. Heck, I was the prime example! I never go to the Bronx, I never leave my house before 9AM, I never run outside, and I usually work out alone! But, in support of my friend Amir, I came out And that, in itself, was an accomplishment.

Through Harlem Run, I gained the motivation to continue my outdoor fitness journey. Alison, Justin, and everyone else's encouragement strengthened my faith in the community and reignited my interest in group fitness activities. All in all, this day was a testament of life. Setbacks and successes. Sometimes the best made plans turn upside down, but somewhere in between, you live and you learn. Things were destined to turn out the way they did. It added value and appreciation to the experience and now I look forward to actually running with Harlem Run even more.


Amir Figueroa1 Comment