Ashley Higginson, a recent Princeton grad who now runs professionally for NJ*NY Track Club and Saucony, is a two-time USA Outdoor Track & Field runner-up in the steeplechase with a PR of 9:27:59. When she’s not jumping over water barriers, she’s finishing up law school at Rutgers and documenting her adventures at Peace Love and Water Barriers.
It’s true what they say – NYC never sleeps. Whether you’re up at 4 a.m. for a tempo run or lacing up at midnight, you’ll always have someone – and more than likely a group – to run with.
NYC boasts over 200 running clubs, each as diverse as the city’s residents and burroughs – from teams that groom Olympic hopefuls to casual groups that get you out the door on a cold day. For most everyone, the people you suffer and sweat with are also the ones you grab beers with after (or before!) your run.
“Most New York Road Runners (NYRR) races have thousands of participants, but the club scene in NYC is a tight, interconnected group of runners,” says Zach Pollock, who runs for the New York Harriers. “You see the same faces in corrals, the same names in results, and pass the same people on runs. It fosters friendships as well as friendly competition.”
Team Strava recently spent a week with a few of the many NYC running clubs. And after too many miles, a lot of beers, and too little sleep, we couldn’t help but fall in love with NYC and its running culture. Here’s a brief guide to some of the runners and clubs that make this city a unique place to run. For more photos of NYC running clubs, visit stories.strava.com.
“Supporting healthy lifestyles … where healthy is a long run followed by beers and donuts.” – Laura Kelly
Overheard at the chalked start line on the path near the East River Park Track where the Harriers begin their Wednesday night workout: “I just had a burger and a beer. This is going to be fun.” Whoever said runners are boring hasn’t run with the Harriers.
And just because they have fun doesn’t mean they aren’t wicked fast. We ran with the Harriers for Coach Darcy Budworth’s infamous Canova workout (named for professional running coach Renato Canova) – eight miles of continuous 800s, alternating between half marathon pace and marathon pace. Not surprisingly, Asher Fusco leads the workout. He’s one of the fastest guys on the team and seems to set a PR at every race, recently running a 4:34 at the Fifth Avenue Mile. Several Harriers are training for the NYC Marathon, including Laura Kelly, originally from Ireland, and Elizabeth Franzek, a Harrier of eight years and full-time doctor who somehow finds time to join team workouts and races.
The Harriers epitomize pure urban running. Budworth’s vision is for the club to experience the city beyond Central Park. “We like to switch it up. We run on streets, from borough to borough, over the bridges.” Traditions include the Last Sunday Long Run and First Thursdays, when different Harriers lead runs that finish at a favorite brunch spot or bar. This summer, the Harriers created the Take the Bridge race series. At 8 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month, athletes competed in an intimate race across famous city bridges. No clocks, no mile markers – just a race that forces athletes to run on intuition.
“The best balance between competitiveness and making running fun.” – Matt Wong, co-founder
The Whippets are one of the largest and most inclusive clubs in the city, with runs and workouts throughout the city pretty much every day of the week. If you ask some Whippets how they heard about the team, they’ll either tell you they saw a sea of blue at a local race or were recruited by one of the club’s coaches.
Casey Phlegar, a new member who ran the 800m and 1500m at Cornell, was encouraged to check out a workout. “I was looking for a team to run with post-collegiately,” says Phlegar.
I feed off the team’s diversity and energy immensely.
Our workout with them was a doozy. As the sun set over the East River Park Track, the Whippets clipped off mile repeats at 15K pace. Chandler Rainey had a banner workout. Like many Whippets, she’s training for the TCS NYC Marathon. She sets out to run 6:45/mile pace but surprises herself with 6:00 splits. “I just felt good and got carried away,” she says. “I only run a few days a week, but I try to make each run count.”
«We’re small but feisty.» – Chloe Lasserson
Gotham City Runners (GCR) was founded in 2013 by Coach Josh Maio and legendary Coach Frank “Gags” Gagliano, whose coaching resume includes the Nike Farm team, Oregon Track Club, and NJ*NY Track Club. And just a year on the scene, GCR is proving itself, having won the NYRR Women’s B Division in 2014.
“I have no idea how it happened, but our team is 85% female. They are some bad ass ladies,” says Maio. “We’re just a point behind fourth place in the A Division this year. We scraped and clawed our way up. We don’t require anyone to run the NYRR races, but our crew got the bug and went after it on their own.”
The secret to GCR’s success is a combination of great coaching and a very close-knit team. “The program we’ve developed – which includes individualized coaching, group workouts, and social events – is intended to help runners achieve their goals while celebrating camaraderie and a genuine love for running,” says Chloe Lasserson, who both coaches and competes for the team. “We are a fun-loving group that works hard, and the results we’ve achieved in a short time speak for themselves.”
Join this club if you: Miss being part of a team and want to join a loyal, competitive group.
All-Americans who keep on running and masters who keep on winning.
Make no mistake – the leaf adorning the blue and orange singlets of the Central Park Track Club (CPTC) is not a Canadian maple leaf. It’s the symbol of New York City’s massive parks network, home to many of the club’s workouts. Founded in 1972, CPTC is one of the city’s oldest and most competitive clubs. It’s Hall of Fame includes legendary runners like Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, and more recently produced four 2012 Olympians.
The team is still a racing powerhouse in every event from the 100m to the marathon, thanks to an impressive roster of coaches. Devon Martin (distance) has coached over 30 athletes to the National Championships, Tony Ruiz (road racing) competed in the 1980 Olympic Games for Puerto Rico, and Jerome Robinson (sprints and jumps) has coached two Olympians.
On a muggy Tuesday evening, we joined CPTC for 800m repeats on the gravel Bridle Path in Central Park. At least 40 athletes showed up despite it being a few days after the notoriously competitive Fifth Avenue Mile, where CTPC athletes Corey Wall finished a respectable 26th with a 4:11 and Hunter Harrison, a recent MIT grad, snagged a top-50 finish with a 4:26.
“CPTC members stick together, encourage each other, travel together, workout together, and enjoy social lives that often overlap. This all contributes to an environment where the athlete can thrive,” says CPTC athlete Herbert Plummer.
North Brooklyn Runners (NBR) emerged from a desire to create a local identity in their own part of town.
“When I first moved to Williamsburg in 2004, I was running down Bedford Ave. Someone threw a cigarette at me from The Verb Cafe as I ran by and nonchalantly mocked, ‘Just Do It,’” says club member Sue Walsh. “There weren’t many runners in Brooklyn then, but now you can’t get rid of us.”
We joined NBR for their Tuesday Tempo Tigerwolves run at McCarren Park. On the docket was Yasso 800s – an ideal workout for athletes like Erica Silbiger, who’s training for NYC Marathon, and Stephane Horeau, who recently completed the Tahoe Ironman. Connie Fried had an impressive workout, effortlessly clipping off 3:00 800s.
“We have an enormous variety of runners…from extreme ultra marathoners to people who are brand new,» says Walsh. «NBR also attracts many designers, architects, photographers, etc., so it’s an enormous pool of interest and talent. Everyone seems to live a very full life.
“The greatest thing about this club is that its entire foundation is built on generosity. We have around 20 runs a week, and all are purely volunteer-based. There are zero fees to join. It’s pretty amazing.”
Size: 26 tribes across the U.S. (and growing), and 100+ members at most workouts.
Join this club if you: Want accountability and love theme parties.
Just show up. – November Project motto.
November Project (NP) is more than a running group. It’s a free fitness movement, a network of tribes all over the country that trudge through the snow at the crack of dawn to trade sweaty hugs and do Hoisties – a trademarked NP move that works your quads and glutes but more importantly brings friends together. Most NP experiences are so fun and cathartic, you barely realize you’re getting a legit workout.
November Project NYC is co-led by Paul Leak and John Honerkamp, who aggressively straddle the line between coach, comedian and cheerleader for over a hundred tribe members. They convene punctually at 5:28am and 6:28am every Wednesday and Friday at pop-up playgrounds across the city – from the mayor’s house at Gracie Mansion to the Staten Island Ferry (yup, they did a workout there).
“I was immediately intrigued by these seemingly superhuman men and their message,” says Emily Faherty of Paul and John.
All are welcome to join – just show up and get moving!
In honor of the golf-themed workout we joined, members dressed in everything from Tiger costumes (in honor of Tiger Woods) to traditional golfing attire. Each “hole” was a circuit workout of a 0.6-mile zig-zagging stair loop finishing with a surprise set of burpees, squats or push-ups.
Workouts are designed to provide accountability in a judgement-free zone, using human contact and conventional sillyness to take people out of their comfort zones. “New Year’s Eve was one of my ultimate favorites. We had party hats, horns, champagne and Jell-O shots!” says Jessica Snider-Rodriguez, an NP NYC regular.
NYC can be as lonely as it is busy. “The transition to urban life was not easy,” says Maggie Zhang, who runs with the Dashing Whippets. “The business world can be harsh and cut-throat, and though it’s crowded, the city feels isolated and cliquish to a new transplant. Running offered me the opportunity to connect with an ever expanding community of kind, like-minded and driven people I can call friends. It has given me a sense of belonging.”