On an early morning Saturday last June, Greenpoint resident Aja Marsh hopped aboard the L train en route to Manhattan, where the starting line of her first half−marathon lay.
She was struck by how many people on the train were clad in running gear. Never before had Marsh, a 26−year−old San Antonio native, realized there were so many fellow runners in her adoptive home neighborhood.
“I got really excited about the idea that these people were my neighbors, and that they were making this sacrifice that some people would think was crazy,” she remembered.
It was then that the North Brooklyn Runners Club, which originated this January and now meets seven times a week, was first conceived.
Marsh knew there were running clubs in Manhattan and in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Park Slope, but didn’t realize there was a market for one in North Brooklyn until that June morning.
So after working up some courage and re−affirming her commitment, she began peppering neighborhood streets with flyers in January. The flyers, combined with word of mouth, have attracted a dedicated following of around 20 members, 10 of whom show up to multiple events a week. In all, there are 100 members on the club’s mailing list, though Marsh said only around half of them have ever attended an event.
So she is looking for more members. And she stressed that beginners should not feel intimidated.
“The great thing about running is that anybody can do it – it’s just a matter of doing a little bit more every time out, and you will get better,” she said.
The 8 p.m. Wednesday night run around the McCarren Park track, in which runners go at their own pace for as long as they want, is a good run for beginners, Marsh said.
Other runs – which take place in the early morning, the early evening, on the weekends – include jaunts through the neighborhood, and a Saturday morning run over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan and back.
Marsh said the club is a good way to feel connected to both the neighborhood and the people in it.
“For many of us who aren’t from here, it’s really important to find a community within the neighborhoods we live in. You walk by these people on the street and the train all the time – it’s nice to get to know some of them,” Marsh said.
Lidie Lajoie, a surgical resident, said her busy schedule allows her to “socialize and work out at the same time. It’s a good stress reliever for me.”
“I work in Brooklyn and I live in the neighborhood, so I thought it would be a nice way to get to know my neighbors. This allows me to feel more of a sense of community,” she added.
Another advantage concerns motivation: Even though running is a solitary pursuit for some, having a commitment to a group is just what many people need to make sure they do it, Marsh said.
“There’s an aspect of accountability. If you usually go to the Tuesday night run and people expect you to be there, you’re probably more likely to go,” said Marsh.
Anna McCusker boiled it down by saying, “I get really lazy and I like to smoke a lot. If I’m running, I don’t do those things.”
Marsh began running in high school, when her father, a runner himself, insisted she play a sport. Now, like most runners, she’s a believer.
“It’s a great mental release and a great way to channel energy and stress,” she said.
“It’s also a good way to unwind from the hectic New York world. It’s a good way to see the city, too – New York is really a great running town.”