I’ve never been a runner. Playing tag in grade school is the closest thing I can think of that involved running. But to my happy surprise, for the past few months, I’ve ran more miles, and explored more of New York City, on foot, than I could have imagined in my 17 years of living here.
A good friend of mine, who had just moved from Los Angeles, persuaded me to run with the NYC Bridgerunners for the first time. Having just completed the month of Ramadan, I was ready to take a more active role in my health and well-being; so I said, “why not, I can go for a short run.”
That short run became a nearly 10-mile jaunt, on one of the hottest days of the summer, through the hills and parks of Staten Island, a part of New York that I’ve only visited once before. By the time I reached the ferry terminal at the end of the run, nearing 11pm, drenched in sweat, my legs like Jell-O, I was hooked.
I was hooked on the adventure of running through the unknown parts of this city at night. I was hooked to the ache of my legs, that good ache that only comes after a great workout. But most importantly, I was hooked to the charisma and hospitality of the other runners, strangers to me at that point, but motivators nonetheless, without whose support and words of encouragement during that brutal run, I don’t think I would have finished. They didn’t pretend to be big shots, or runners with egos, they understood my struggle to keep up, they kept pace with me, offering conversation or just the sound of their breathing, letting me know that we were in it together.
The NYC Bridgerunners have a saying: “Just show up!” When you come to a Bridgerunners meet, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, your age, gender, sexual orientation, or your experience with running. All you have to do is just show up, and you are welcomed like family. We run together over bridges, through alleyways, in the middle of the streets, and like family we support each other.
Rain or shine, in the heat of summer or in the chill of winter, the Bridgerunners just show up, and they run on. Though they only meet once a week on Wednesdays, they have built a wide reaching community of runners that are always willing to gather for running events that occur frequently throughout New York.
I used to think that my work and lifestyle didn’t afford me enough time to stay active, but with my recent experience with Bridgerunners and its members, I’m more motivated to run every chance I get, and wherever I am. Bridgerunners taught me that you can run anywhere and anytime; that you can run at your own pace; that you’re running for yourself and your own well-being. Being able to run through a human tunnel of cheering faces after you’ve just ran over the Brooklyn Bridge on a clear summer night, is pretty amazing. It’s a simple validation of your effort that isn’t owed to you, but given freely out of solidarity by the Bridgerunners crew.
Images by Paulsta Wong