3 Ways to Keep Your [Running] Community Together While Social Distancing

Amir Figueroa
by Amir Figueroa
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3 Ways to Keep Your [Running] Community Together While Social Distancing

As the leader of Harlem Run, one of the largest running crews in NYC, I’ve had to be creative over the last several weeks to come up with ways to keep my community connected safely, while remaining socially distant. Professionally, I manage a core facility in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University Medical Center and was well aware of the important sacrifices our community needed to make to help prevent the rapid spread of the virus. Therefore, even before the official mandates regarding social distancing were made in New York, I made the tough decision to cancel our weekly Monday group social runs and Thursday speed workouts as a way of playing our part in showing the health of our community comes first. While there are still tough days ahead, I am currently working on a COVID-19 study with the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center that will hopefully yield promising results. In the meantime — and since our last group run on March 9, where 150 people showed up — we’ve been using the following best practices to get through these difficult times.



Typically, Harlem Run meets every Monday night at 7p.m. in Marcus Garvey Park. Last November, the Commissioner of NYC Parks recognized us for the work we do in our community with a dedicated plaque to commemorate our meet up location, now known as “Harlem Run Plaza.” Over the past four weeks, runners have been stopping at this location and sharing photos on social media of them wearing our Harlem Run buffs. This simple act has become a way for our community to spread love and is a reminder of the seven years, and counting, that we have been empowering urban communities and to get fit.

Pro tip: Does your community have a home base or a route that carries any significance? Encourage members to get out there solo, and relive the spirit of community. You can be a beacon of hope to others wherever you are!



We’ve been using the hashtags #MonNgtRun and #TrainWithHarlemRun on social media when we run solo and have created group challenges on MapMyRun to stay connected virtually. These weekly check-ins help keep your community accountable.

Pro tip: Head to MapMyRun to join the Healthy At-Home Challenge to stay motivated and/or create a challenge for your local community and friends.



We have a regular lineup of IG live sessions where we connect with our community. From hosting a Monday night run live session to Tuesday night HIIT class to Thursday night stretching, and Friday night boot camp, we have something for everyone virtually as we would if we were still meeting in person. This is our way of supporting our community to stay active.

Pro tip: What is your gift or talent? And where can you share it? Now is the perfect time for you to offer your skillset as a means of keeping your community connected.

While there is no doubt there are still many tough days ahead, being connected virtually with Harlem Run has been a major source of support for me and the hundreds of others who would typically run with us on a weekly basis. Until we meet again in person, I’m thankful for all of the ways we are remaining socially connected while physically distant.

About the Author

Amir Figueroa
Amir Figueroa

Passionate about empowering urban communities to get fit, Amir Muhammad Figueroa is an endurance athlete sponsored by Under Armour. When Amir isn’t running the streets of NYC or nearby trails, he works as a research scientist, outdoor guide, youth advocate and community organizer.


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