Becoming Friends with Running

Running was never my friend. I grew up in Wisconsin and played every sport under the sun, but thrived the most in football, lacrosse, and rugby. I only looked at running as a punishment for poor play or mistakes made while on the field. But I’ve found that the desire to be a competitive athlete didn’t just subside once I hung up my football cleats after my college football career.

After college, I needed another athletic outlet, but wasn’t 100% sure where to find it or what it would be. I played in a couple of flag football leagues, which were fun, but organizing recreational sports for adults is waaaaaaaay too much work for the reward. I have also moved across the country four times in seven years (Chicago, Houston, Milwaukee, New York City) after undergrad, so that didn’t leave me with a solid understanding of the sports scene in these cities.

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So, what was I to do? Hope that the ever-inconsistent pickup basketball game found me? Doubtful. Try and bribe strangers to come play catch with me? Maybe a fun idea, but it’s a bit of a stretch. I thought I might be doomed to a sportless existence until I saw some sweaty and smiling faces wearing Harlem Run shirts while I was out for a walk one evening in Harlem. I asked the two ladies about their shirts, and they let me know it was a great run crew in Harlem, and I should check it out. “They meet on Mondays and Thursdays,” they said. I figured I can swing that!

So Monday rolled around, and I found my way to Harlem Shake to meet the crew. I was surprised with the large numbers of people who showed up. “All of these people came here to run…. voluntarily?,” I thought. Then the run began. Mind you, at this point, I wasn’t exactly in top long distance running shape, and I hadn’t run any distance in well over six months. Regardless, as I typically do, I got a bit ahead of myself and ran with the nine-minute pace group. For those who don’t know the nines, they are the second fastest pace group at Harlem Run. Long story short, I got smoked. I didn’t even make it half way. But I finished.

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Fast forward a year, I now run with the seven-minute pace group, have lost about 15 pounds, and have run a half marathon. And I’m currently qualifying for the 2018 NYC Marathon. Long story short, I am very happy I found Harlem Run, or I suppose that Harlem Run found me. I guess running is my friend now. Never say never.

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- Will