Harlem Run: Building a Movement One Mile at a Time

Harlem Run: Building a Movement One Mile at a Time

As we gear up for the NYRR Team Championships on August 5, we’ll be introducing you to some of the top teams across the five boroughs. This week, meet Harlem Run, a group that's breaking down barriers uptown. 

Amir Figueroa with Harlem Run founder Alison Désir 

Amir Figueroa with Harlem Run founder Alison Désir 

Harlem Run’s not your average running team—“We don’t define ourselves as a club or crew, but rather a movement” says co-leader Amir Figueroa. “We have found that Harlem Run has really inspired people beyond Harlem and around the world to embrace running as a vehicle for personal transformation and social change.”

That movement started as a party of one: In November 2013, Harlem Run founder Alison Désir was looking for running buddies who shared her passion for community and diversity. And through social media and word of mouth, single digits quickly turned into triple digits.  

Today, Monday night workouts draw more than 200 people of all ages and abilities out for three to six-mile runs leaving from Marcus Garvey Park. Another 50+ runners show up for Thursday evening speed-work sessions.

“We are an inclusive space that offers pace groups for people of all levels, including walking and run-walking groups,” explains Figueroa. “And we begin every run with an introduction so that people have a greater sense of comfort out on the run.”

The end result: “We find that members never want to go home after a run,” he says.  

That togetherness not only provides a steady dose of workout motivation, but also fosters collaboration in building a healthy community.

“We regularly host fundraisers, food and clothing drives, and partner with community organizations, most recently with Harlem Grown to provide running demonstrations for kids,” explains Figueroa.

In June, Harlem Run hosted the third-annual Harlem One Mile and welcomed nearly 300 runners across the finish line. The race benefits Harlem United, a community health center focused on supporting those affected by homelessness and HIV/AIDS.

In coming years, Harlem Run hopes to expand to other urban communities across the U.S. and share its model of inclusive fitness.

Interested in being part of the movement? “Just show up,” says Figueroa. Monday and Thursday workouts are free and open to all levels. For more information, check out harlemrun.com. And don’t miss the NYRR Team Championships for men and women on August 5!

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