NYC FIT SERIES: Alison Désir

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Alison Désir


This edition of our NYC FIT Series features Alison Désir, founder and creator of Harlem Run and Run4allwomen; and a contributor of Women's Running Magazine.  She recently organized a run from NYC to the Women's March in D.C. to raise money for Planned Parenthood and show her support for women's rights. 

PS: How did you get into running?

AD:  I ran my first marathon in 2012 after going through a period of depression.  I saw on Facebook that one of my friends was training for a marathon and fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and something just lit up inside of me.  I decided at that moment to sign up with the same organization and train for my first marathon.  The idea, of course, seemed impossible to me at first and it was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done.  But, at the same time, it came to be the most life changing and rewarding.  Throughout the 16 week training plan, I was transformed.  Running helped me cope with my depression and allowed me to do things I never thought were possible.  The rest is history.

PS: Why and how did you start Harlem Run?

AD: I started Harlem Run in November 2013 – about a year and a half after running my first marathon.  I had been blogging about my own experiences running and slowly growing a following and felt that creating a running club would be a great way to share my transformational experience with my community.  At the time, there were no other run clubs in Harlem and so Harlem Run really was the only space providing free fitness for the community.  Within a year, Harlem Run had grown from just me to several hundred people showing up weekly.  Harlem Run truly has become a movement and, many say, a family.

PS: In January, you led a 240-mile run from NYC to the Women’s March in DC to raise money for Planned Parenthood and awareness for Women’s Rights.  Can you tell us more about this?  

AD:  The run to DC was incredible.  I never imagined that my crazy idea to run to the Women’s March and raise money for Planned Parenthood would spark a national movement.  Within 30 days, we raised over $100,000 for Planned Parenthood and engaged over 1,000 people along the way on the run.  The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive.  In fact, we recently created an ambassador program in order to empower women to use running as a form of activism in their own communities.  We will be hosting a summit at the end of April in New York where we will meet the ambassadors and give them some of the tools and best practices we learned on our journey so that they may produce their own long distance, fundraising events later this summer.  The whole experience has taught me about the power of ideas and how critical it is that we each do SOMETHING, no matter how big or small, to contribute to making the world a better place.  We really are more powerful than we know.

PS:  That truly was an inspiring statement and contribution to such an important cause. What kept you motivated?

AD: I was motivated by the fact that women’s rights and, in particular women’s reproductive rights, are under attack.  I was running not only for myself but for all those who believe in a woman’s right to be in control of her own body.  We also met the kindest people along the way who ran for us when we needed a break and literally offered their homes and showers to us!   There is nothing more motivating than the support of strangers who treat you like family.

PS: What are some of your favorite running must-haves?

AD:  I’m a pretty low frills runner but, I will say, a must have to eat on the run is the Honey Stinger gluten free waffles. To be honest, I eat them even when I’m not running.  They are just so delicious lol  My birthday is coming up – please send some to me !

PS: How do you fuel up for a long run?

AD:  I don’t usually run in the morning, so my fuel right before a run is less important since I’ve eaten all day.  For a weekend morning run or a race, I will eat peanut butter, half an avocado, and a banana before heading out.

PS:  What are some tips for new runners or those looking to take on a race such as a Half-Marathon or Marathon?

AD:  I think the most important tip for a new runner is that you should enjoy the race.  Actually, that tip is for all runners no matter their experience but, I think in the very beginning, we often put all of this pressure on ourselves to be experts immediately.  You will make so many mistakes while training / running your first race and that’s perfectly normal.  Embrace them and use them as learning moments.  Oh. And make sure you smile in your best running form for your photo at the finish line – you can stop your Garmin after the photo finish.

PS: Do you have an races coming up for you this year?

AD: I’ll be running the Boston Marathon in honor of the first woman to run with a numbered entry 50 years ago.  It sort of blows my mind that only 50 years ago, a woman running a marathon was an outrageous thought and the general thinking was that we were physiologically incapable.  I am extremely proud to be running on this historic occasion.

PS: That is very exciting! We have to know... What does your social media pseudonym “Powdered Feet” mean?

AD:  My parents nicknamed me powered feet when I was a child.  I was always super active and involved in so many activities that I never sat still.  Powdered Feet is a Haitian Kreyol saying that translates to mean you never see the person, just the footprints of where they’ve been in powder.  I think my parents used to worry that I had powdered feet but it has come to really define my character, in a great way!

Thanks for sharing with us Alison.  We love seeing and supporting your footprints. You are a great role model and motivator to have in our city. and good luck with your training and future runs!  

You can follow Alison Desir on her instagram feeds @powderedfeet @harlemrun @run4allwomen

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