The sun beamed down on today's Percy Sutton Harlem 5K, walk, and Rising New York Road Runners youth races. The event, a favorite on the NYRR calendar since 2009, is a gorgeous tour of historic Harlem, with the 5K route making a long, narrow loop around St. Nicholas Park and coursing through the City College of New York's picturesque campus. Once again this year, the 5K featured 80+ NYRR Run for the Future participants, young women entering their senior year of high school who cap off a seven-week summer training program with NYRR coaches by running this race, their first 5K. The free program offers the girls the opportunity to get fit, develop leadership skills, and earn money for college. 

The girls got last-minute pep talks from their coaches, and each ran with a race buddy, who accompanied them throughout. Everyone celebrated together afterward, staying to cheer on the final finishers and share smiles, hugs, and photos along with apples and bagels.

"I love the energy here today," said one RFTF finisher, Rosemarie, who also gave the program high marks. "I love how the coaches push you. Even when you are down, they encourage you to go further. I didn’t like to run before, but now I’m thinking, maybe I should go out for track!"

Her friend Emely concurred. "I felt prepared because of the practicers," she said. "I like all the hard work that goes into running."

There was, though, universal agreement that the steep hill on West 141st Street, just before the halfway point, was a beast. "It was really, really steep!" said Sandy, laughing afterward with her friend Judy, who commented, "I had to walk up it, and it was hard to get my energy going again. But my teammates and the race buddies were really supportive. And I knew that I had the endurance to do it."

 

The accompanying 1.5-mile walk included more than 100 members of NYRR Striders, a program that offers free coach-led walking sessions to seniors throughout the five boroughs. Monica Green, a four-year Striders member at the Brighton Senior Center in Staten Island, paused on the 141st Street hill to acknowledge the positive role of Striders in her life. "If there's a hill, I can climb it," she said. "I know that I'm capable."

 

Another Striders member, Violeta Swift of the Willoughby Senior Center in Brooklyn, was equally enthusiastic. "It's nice meeting different people at the walks and here at the big events," she said. "It's energetic."

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