A Little Inspiration from the Founder of Harlem Run

Alison Desir
by Alison Desir
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A Little Inspiration from the Founder of Harlem Run

Hi everyone, Alison Désir here, aka powdered feet. I am honored to be a contributing blogger for MapMyRun and to share my running journey with you — as well as tips to help you get started or keep you going strong. It’s easy to find reasons to stop training. However, I’m here in the struggle with you, and I hope to help motivate you and encourage you to continue to dig deep to reach your goals.

You might be thinking: OK, but who are you and why should I listen to you?  

Well, I’m glad you asked!

I’m an endurance athlete, sponsored by Under Armour, and a firm believer that sport has the power to change lives. However, I wasn’t always this way. In fact, if you had told me five years ago that I would be an endurance athlete, I would have laughed in your face. See, five years ago I was suffering from depression and had trouble getting out of bed each day. Unemployed and grappling with my father’s worsening condition due to his Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis, I could never have imagined that I would now be running marathons and ultramarathons — and embracing the lifestyle around that. But it happened.

In January of 2012, I got the crazy idea to do what was seemingly impossible at the time: train for a marathon. I haven’t looked back since. In fact, I went from running my first marathon in June 2012 (the San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon) to founding and leading a running movement known as Harlem Run in November 2013, to leading a 252-mile running relay for Planned Parenthood in January 2017.

“The success of Harlem Run has allowed me to touch the lives of so many and is a testament to the healing power of movement.”

Harlem Run started as my way of sharing my passion for running with my community, and it has grown into a movement that regularly hosts 200-plus members for evening runs and special events. The success of Harlem Run is a testament to the healing power of movement and has allowed me to touch the lives of so many. My most rewarding challenge to date was leading a 252-mile relay from Harlem to Washington, D.C. — and raising more than $100,000 for Planned Parenthood. Running has transformed my life.


Through my stories, I’ll write about my running family as well as some of my favorite routes, races, gear — you name it. If there’s something in particular you’re curious about, I would love to hear it in the comments.    

To kick off my first column, here are some tips that helped me get through my transition to the sport:

1. Set a goal. If you’re just getting started, your goal might be something simple like “go far a 30-minute walk every day.” If you’ve been running for a while, you might pick a race or even set a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Make sure to share your goal with others: It holds you accountable.

2. Find a workout partner or group to train with (and keep it interesting).

3. Switch things up! Try a workout you haven’t done before — it doesn’t have to be running related. But if you run on the road, try a trail run or hit the track.

4. If you’re used to running on the treadmill, it’s time to layer up and get outside.

5. Treat yourself to new workout gear — if you look your best, you’ll feel your best!

6. Start a training log. Use the UA Band and MapMyRun to log your workouts and MyFitnessPal to track your nutrition. Keep a log of not only what your workout was but how you felt doing it, as well as what you ate and how much you slept. This is useful data to analyze your progress.

7. Write down words of encouragement and post them around your home. These are the words that keep you going even during those times when you don’t want to get out of bed.


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About the Author

Alison Desir
Alison Desir

Passionate about community, mental health and fitness, Alison AKA powderedfeet is an endurance athlete sponsored by Under Armour and a believer that sport has the power to change lives. When Alison isn’t running, she’s working to resolve and speak about issues related to women and girls.


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