How Volunteering Helped Lisa Soohoo Reclaim Her Health

How Volunteering Helped Lisa Soohoo Reclaim Her Health

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In spring 2017, 64-year-old Lisa Soohoo was looking for a way to stay active. She was recovering from heart surgery, had recently retired, and had just moved back to New York City after living in California for several years while caring for her aging parents.

As Lisa was cheering her eight-year-old grand-niece across the finish line at the Times Square Youth Run at the United Airlines NYC Half, something came over her.

“I thought, I should be an inspiration to her, set a good example by challenging myself,” she recalls. “It was the encouragement I needed to get out of the house and work toward rehabilitation. It triggered my interest in running again."

While Lisa began running and biking in her teens, she’d moved away from these activities as a busy adult. “Today, I recognize that I’m unable to resume the competitive athletics of my youth, so swimming, bicycling, low-impact runs, and NYRR Striders sessions are good choices for me to recover and improve my health status,” she says.

Spectating the 2017 United Airlines NYC Half also introduced Lisa to New York Road Runners: “It made me want to give back to a community that builds friendships and inspires us to chase goals and new experiences,” she says.

Following the Half, Lisa joined NYRR’s volunteer leader training program. She quickly realized that the skills she had developed working the aerospace, auto, biotech, education, and healthcare industries over the course of her career transferred to volunteering. “Focus is always on teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and people skills,” she says.

“Now I’m hooked,” says Lisa, a familiar face at NYRR events. “The people are compassionate and supportive of making others stronger, more confident, and involved in living more enriched lives through running.”

She also hooked on participating in races herself. Lisa’s completed 10 NYRR events in the past 12 months, including the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half. “Participating in a run and finishing with a warm hug from Peter, and cheers of encouragement from family and friends, is so gratifying,” she says.  

Though tackling two half-marathons is a huge accomplishment for Lisa, her fondest memory from 2017 is placing finisher medals around runners’ necks as a volunteer leader at the TCS New York City Marathon. “I treasure seeing the joy of accomplishment on each individual’s face,” she says.” I was in awe and brimming with pride for each finisher."

Being a volunteer leader has become a big part of Lisa’s social life: “It’s an opportunity to meet new people, embrace cultural traditions, go on adventures, and play an active part in the global community,” says Lisa, who also enjoys biking, international travel, theater, family time, and NYC Restaurant Week.

Still, helping others is her number-one passion. “Volunteering with NYRR has motivated me to rise out of bed and count my blessings,” she says. “I am enjoying the beauty of friendly faces among runners as I continue to gain back my health.”


Celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Month! Learn more about volunteering with New York Road Runners.

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