NYRR Open Run's Monique Thomas: On Every Run, "There's Always a Lesson"
As a volunteer-led initiative, NYRR Open Run relies on community members to lead weekly runs and walks in neighborhood parks across the five boroughs. And if you’ve been to an Open Run in Crotona Park lately, there’s a good chance you’ve met Run Director Monique Thomas.
If you haven’t met Monique, now’s your chance. We recently chatted with the Bronx resident about her experience as a runner—she’s lost 10 pounds since picking up the sport and uses it to manage anxiety and depression—as well as why she’s taken on a leadership role in her community.
What do you like best about helping people reach their running goals?
The reward behind helping people reach their goals makes me feel better as a person.
Some people come to me asking, “Do you get paid to be a Run Director?” and my response is, “No, and it’s not about money.” The reward is changing someone’s life and helping them achieve their personal running goals.
I love inspiring people, helping someone run their first mile or race, or seeing them run their first marathon. Those are some of the best moments in life, and they can’t be taken away.
What personally intrigues you about running?
The feeling that I get after running—it’s a high that you can’t come down from. I like that it changes your feelings about life, and it changes how you feel about yourself personally. Your confidence grows. Some people make running an ego thing, but it isn’t an ego thing to me. Running keeps me humble.
What motivates you to run?
The fact that I can get up in the morning, open my eyes, and thank God that I can run, because so many people can’t. I’ll get up in the morning and try to run. If it isn’t for me that day, then it isn’t for me.
What challenges do you face as a runner?
Longer distances, better paces—there’s a lot that comes with that besides the physical challenges. You have the hydration issue, the refueling issue, figuring out something to change for next time.
For example, yesterday I was running with a woman who is training for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. She needed to run 16 miles; I’ve never run 16 miles before.
I went to meet her with no water or protein bar with me, and my running leggings didn’t have pockets. So as I was running with her, I got dehydrated quickly. Every time I passed a water fountain, I had to stop, which slowed my pace down. That taught me that I wasn’t prepared to run a longer distance, but that next time I will be. There is always a lesson.
As a Run Director, you support runners each week in Crotona Park. Who supports you?
Black Girls Run is my running support network. They are very good to me, very encouraging and loving. From the time I got there, they motivated me to run three miles. They inspired and motivated me to make sure I finished the course for that day. As a runner, they push you to be the best version of yourself.
What are some of your favorite places to run in NYC?
Crotona Park and Inwood Hill Park have become my favorite places to run. They’re beautiful places to run, and the trees are so beautiful. Flushing Meadows Corona Park also holds a special place in my heart. As a kid, I went to the Queens Museum on a school trip and ever since, Queens has been a special place to me.
To learn more about NYRR Open Run, including how you can become a Run Director, visit openrun.nyrr.org.