New City, New Outlook on Running

Running has been part of my life ever since I can remember. I started running mainly to stay physically fit, but I quickly discovered that it also kept me mentally sane. I enjoyed being quiet and alone, I was never pursuing any time nor speed goal, and I just enjoyed being on my feet. No watch, no time, no music, just me.

I was introduced to the world of running races by my sister, Evelyne. She likes challenges and always goes above and beyond when it comes to competition. She once came to me and asked me to join her in a 10K. I was shocked. Me?? Doing a race?? Aren’t races only for athletes and elite runners? What kind of craziness is this? 


Sure enough, I signed up for it. Our training was pretty basic. The goal was to run the same path over and over again until we reached a school that is exactly 5K away from home. Then, we would know we were prepared. That was it. It was a such a terrifying experience but it felt great to accomplish this challenge! I discovered that yes, anyone can run a race, no matter how fast or fit one is.

A few months later, Evelyne asked me to join her for a half marathon. Okay, now that was serious business. It took her more time to convince me, but she did it. To be honest, I was having so much doubt and anxiety. Even after signing up, I was still trying to find a way to escape this race. How could I possibly achieve something this big? I would need to commit and commitment was not my cup of tea. Plus, I don’t like running “like that”.

This time I knew we needed a better training plan. Mainly because I was so sick of this famous path we were doing all the time! We found a training plan online, I bought a running watch and some “real” running shoes. We were ready. I was scared to death, but equipped like a champion. The way I felt after finishing my first half marathon is hard to describe. I was beyond proud and wore my medal for a week. I accomplished something huge. Thanks to Evelyne!


When I moved to NYC in 2015, I tried to keep up with running, but unexpected obstacles came my way. I used to run at night, by myself and with the sound of the wind. But now, running by myself at night was no longer peaceful and freeing. There were people everywhere, all the time.

I started to fear having to go out by myself. I started to hate going out of my building, fearing all the comments about my body and my outfits. I did not know how to deal with all that nonsense. So I stopped. I started to stress, my sanity leaving me slowly, and I started to hate everything about my new city. I was so angry and mad at myself for not being strong enough to fight back and claim my rights in order to do something I liked the way I wanted.

Also, like any young adult moving to the city, I needed to meet people to eventually make friends. But let’s be realistic. How am I supposed to make friends as an adult? I was so hopeless and I had no idea how to get out of this circle of unhappiness. 

During a trip back home to Canada, a conversation with my best friend helped me realize that my way of coping was not effective. I had to make some changes -- now. He had me write a list of objectives and most importantly, modalities of how to achieve them. My goals: make friends, get familiar with New York City and get back to running. Joining a running club seemed like the perfect way to combine and achieve these 3 goals. I searched and found this group: HARLEM RUN. Thanks to Google!


The first Thursday night at Harlem Gets Fit changed my life. It changed the perception I had of fitness groups. It changed the perception I had of New York City. I met people from different ages, shapes and fitness levels. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, I was shocked! I quickly became a regular member of Harlem Run. I met so many inspiring people, visited so many places and ran so many miles with them!


Soon enough, I got inspired to run my very first marathon … in Paris!! My biggest accomplishment up to date. This incredible journey was made only possible thanks to the infinite support of the Saturday Morning Running Crew (SMRC), the strength built in HIIT class, the love received from all my new HR friends and my beloved partner. I never felt alone and I was amazed by all the people believing in me before I did. I am so thankful for all those veterans runners who gave me all their tricks and cues to train like a pro! They made me believe that I was capable of everything.

Joining Harlem Run saved me and was the best coping strategy ever! It changed my life in March 2016 and keeps changing it today. The friends I made through Harlem Run are way more than running buddies.  They are my family now. We push each other’s limits. It is a circle of inspiration and positives vibes. I feel very blessed to be part of this community, this group, this family.


Thanks for all the love and support!

- Isabelle

Isabelle HamelComment