Feet on the Ground, Eyes on the Future: How an NYRR Program Is Propelling Young Women to the Starting Line of the TCS New York City Marathon
While tackling the course loads that come with being busy college seniors, friends Lexi Panisse and Patricia Lorquet are also training for the TCS New York City Marathon, their first 26.2-miler.
The young women met in 2013, when they were participants in NYRR Run for the Future, a free summer running program that introduces high school girls to the sport.
“The program taught me a lot about the kind of person I wanted to be—strong, confident, and able to push through the most difficult of tasks,” says Lexi, an honors student double-majoring in social work and psychology at Lehman College in the Bronx.
Prior to Run for the Future, Lexi hadn’t run outside of gym class. “I knew I was fast, and that was about it,” she says.
Patricia, who’s working toward a degree in biological sciences at the University of Buffalo, was in the same boat. “I had no running experience,” she recalls. “But I was always interested in becoming a distance runner, and Run for the Future helped build the foundation I needed to do that.”
Through the program, new runners learn about technique, nutrition, healthy body image, and goal-setting through weekly training sessions and workshops.
“One of the first things we learned during practice was form,” says Lexi. “And when I’m running today, I still always check my form and stretch out my arms because they get stiff.”
Something that’s stuck with Patricia is how to not get hurt. “Many people who are new to running don’t realize that it’s not about running your hardest until you’re winded,” she says. “Speed and endurance come with time and will not happen if you injure yourself by starting a training regimen your body isn’t ready for.”
The seven-week program concludes with all participants completing their first 5K. Each young woman is paired with an experienced runner who offers motivation, guidance, and pacing throughout the race.
“My race buddy gave me the best advice,” recalls Lexi. “He said when you’re running uphill to always look at your feet, because every step you take is a small victory. That has stuck with me.”
Runners who complete all program requirements receive a $2,000 college scholarship and are invited to take part in other opportunities with Run for the Future.
“I was able to work as a mentor for the program and helped a new set of girls develop a love of running the following summer,” says Patricia. “I also rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on August 17, 2016 to bring awareness to the program.”
In addition to developing leadership skills and forming lifelong friendships, Run for the Future also helps keep young women connected to New York Road Runners and its mission to help and inspire people through running.
“I actually just started a social work internship at a middle school in the Bronx that partners with NYRR’s Rising New York Road Runners program,” says Lexi. “My experience so far has been incredibly fulfilling.”
She’s also continued to take part in races across the five boroughs. “Since finishing Run for the Future and coming back as a mentor, I’ve run my first half-marathon at the 2016 Airbnb Brooklyn Half,” she says. “I also did the SHAPE Women’s Half Marathon this year and completed it with a better time than my Brooklyn Half time.”
Patricia’s finished many road races in New York City and Buffalo, and she also took part in a cross-country relay-style run from San Francisco to Brooklyn this summer on a team that included 27 other college students. A fundraiser for Ulman Cancer Fund, 4K for Cancer spanned 49 days, with each participant logging approximately 400 miles for a grand total of more than 4,000 miles.
Back on campus, both women use running to keep calm when exams and term papers pile up. “Running has gotten me to points of clarity where I’ve been able to solve problems in my life,” says Lexi. “I train alone, so the solitude is comforting and gives me an outlet for the stress of college life.”
Of course, they’ll welcome the study break they have scheduled for November 5.
“Crossing the finish line is what I’m looking forward to,” says Patricia. “I’ll be running with Lexi. We’ve run all our first races together, so I’m excited to have her with me as we run our first marathon!”
After the TCS New York City Marathon, these ladies will be chasing new goals on and off the race course.
“My next adventure will be tackling the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half and possibly more big-city marathons like Boston and Chicago,” says Patricia. “That’s part of my five-year plan.”
Lexi has her sights set on grad school at Columbia University, and will continue to use running to keep her mind and body strong. “I love the way I feel when I’m running, like I’m invincible,” she says. “So I keep doing it.”