Meet Coco Wander, a College Student Committed to Helping Kids Fall in Love with Running

Meet Coco Wander, a College Student Committed to Helping Kids Fall in Love with Running

 Coco and her dad, Wolfie, take on the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.

Coco and her dad, Wolfie, take on the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.

In the months leading up to the TCS New York City Marathon, we'll highlight unique NYRR Team for Kids runners and talk training runs, race-day rituals, and recovery. This month, college student Coco Wander shares why she feels so connected to the next generation of runners. 

“My true love for running began the day I moved into college,” says 20-year-old Coco Wander, a nursing major at New York University who grew up running 5Ks with her family. “I woke up at 5:45 a.m. and made my way to the Brooklyn Bridge to run with November Project.”

Her freshman-year habit stuck—which surprised her. “I mean what college student chooses to wake up at the crack of dawn only to get sweaty and sore?” she says. “Yet running is always there when stress from college or life starts to overwhelm me.”

Running also helped Wander learn her way around NYC: “My favorite part is that I get to explore new places with each run,” she says. “Nothing beats running the Williamsburg Bridge during a sunrise. The lights and colors blend into this beautiful masterpiece that I'm so grateful I get to enjoy.”

 Although she's in college, Coco wakes up before sunrise for workouts with November Project.

Although she's in college, Coco wakes up before sunrise for workouts with November Project.

As she made running and racing more and more a part of her adult life, Wander set her sights on completing the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon, which she ran on behalf of NYRR Team for Kids, a group of adult runners who raise funds to support free running-based fitness programs in schools and community centers across the country.

“My dad roped me in at the start,” she says. “But I really began to connect to the mission when I learned about NYRR’s Run for the Future program. Its goal to empower girls through running is something that I saw in my own life. These high-school girls go from little to no athletic experience to having a full summer dedicated to training for their first 5K.”

Today, Wander sports TFK’s signature green singlet at nearly every race she completes. “Running with Team for Kids always excites me because I know that we have the power to make a positive impact on 267,000 children,” she says. “But what really keeps me wanting to come back is the incredibly helpful staff, the inspiring coaches, and the family that my teammates create.”

 Coco paused for a photo with a group of Rising New York Road Runners during TCS New York City Marathon week in November 2017.

Coco paused for a photo with a group of Rising New York Road Runners during TCS New York City Marathon week in November 2017.

While she’s currently studying abroad in Accra, Ghana, Wander will return to NYC to race the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon with TFK. The night before, she’ll turn up her favorite music and dance away all her nerves—a favorite pre-race ritual. “On the day of, once I'm in the coral, I usually continue to sing and dance or I start to tell some really bad jokes,” she says. “I apologize if you find yourself trapped in the same coral.”

If anyone’s accustomed to Wander’s contagious energy, it’s her father. “All my best races are the ones my dad, Wolfie, helps pace me in,” she says. As the father-daughter duo thinks ahead to training for the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon, they’re already brainstorming brunch ideas: “Anyone who knows me and my dad knows that no long run is complete without waffles and bacon,” says Wander.                                   

 The Wanders made the 2017 NYRR Jingle Bell Jog, a fundraiser for NYRR's youth programs, a family affair.

The Wanders made the 2017 NYRR Jingle Bell Jog, a fundraiser for NYRR's youth programs, a family affair.

But even after Coco and Wolfie have logged all their training miles and celebrated their 26.2-mile journey through the five boroughs, they won’t lose sight of the reason they’ve committed to Team for Kids—passing their family’s love for the sport onto the next generation of runners.

“Running is special because it lets us stay active and heathy without needing a lot of money or equipment,” says Wander. “You don't have to be the fastest to gain the benefits of running. You just have to run.”                                                      

Inspired to run the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon with NYRR Team for Kids? Add meaning to your 26.2 miles and you'll receive access to coaching, group workouts, and VIP race-day perks. Sign up today!

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