Run for Chinatown. Photo: Leland Yu
One of the best ways to explore New York City is on foot. And while many travelers enjoy walking tours and strolls, there’s another great option: running groups. The New York City running community has a presence throughout the five boroughs, and crews all over the City welcome visitors and interested locals to join them for a workout.
The clubs represent the City’s makeup: the LGBTQ+ community; Black and Latino populations; those focused on supporting Chinatown or other neighborhoods in need; people of every fitness level. Running groups have long existed in New York City but their popularity has exploded over the past few years, in part fueled by the pandemic. “During lockdown the City developed a deep camaraderie within different neighborhoods of people helping others to cope. Taking walks with friends to just get out of the house turned into running with a local group,” says Troy Johnson, founder of the Soca Run Club and Festival.
Running groups also use their platforms for activism and education. “Runners are looking to find people who align with their sense of purpose, and there’s a place for everyone,” says Kelly Roberts, founder of Badass Lady Gang.
Read on for a list of diverse running groups, then grab your sneakers and hit the streets.
Meet-up locations and times are given for each club; joining a run is free unless otherwise stated.
Courtesy, Badass Lady Gang
Brooklyn Running Company, 480 Bergen St., Park Slope, Brooklyn, Tuesdays at 6pm
If you’re looking to get in some speed work and run in Brooklyn’s iconic Prospect Park, join the Badass Lady Gang for an evening workout. You’ll meet at Brooklyn Running Company in Park Slope and then head up to Grand Army Plaza—the lively entrance to Prospect Park—for half a mile to a mile of up-tempo runs.
“Badass Lady Gang was created to help connect women so we can find joy in the struggle. We’re a very different type of running group. We’re just as accessible to brand-new runners who can’t run down the block as we are to marathoners. We like to say we’re a community first and a fun workout second,” says Kelly Roberts, founder and coach.
Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Tuesdays at 7pm (second Tuesday of the month at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6); Central Park, Manhattan, Wednesdays at 7pm & Saturdays at 10am
Front Runners New York is a running club and multisport group that was founded for people who identify as LGBTQ+, but you don’t have to be part of the community to run with them. “Everybody is welcome…we have many allies that are a part of our group. And as one of the largest clubs in the City, we have people of all paces and levels of running, so it’s easy to find someone to run with,” says Gilbert Gaona, president of FRNY. Runs are free for all; membership also offers bike rides, swimming and track workouts.
Run for Chinatown. Photo: Kai Ng
69 Mulberry St., Chinatown, Manhattan, Mondays at 6:30pm (depart at 7pm)
In 2020, line cook Leland Yu ran for 12 hours throughout New York City on two separate occasions, covering 61 miles and raising $25,000 each time. Those funds were used to purchase 2,000 meals from Chinatown restaurants for frontline workers and to support nonprofit organizations based in Chinatown.
The following spring, Yu and his running coach, Run Coach Kai, hosted their first Run for Chinatown Monday night group run. “We have built a community that provides a sense of belonging and connects runners with a common purpose—to challenge ourselves, to better ourselves, so that we may best support the people and places around us. We believe that sustainable change starts from within. And for us, it all begins with a Monday night run,” says Yu.
Group runs start and end in Chinatown and cover 3–4 miles at a conversational pace. You’ll have the chance to stop at scenic spots along the route and maybe even share a post-run meal at a Chinatown restaurant.
The Hustle Barbershop, Kew Gardens, Queens, Sundays at 7am & Tuesdays at 7pm; Victory Field, Forest Park Track, Queens, Thursdays at 6:30am
Run Hustle Run originally began in 2016 when Charly Mercado, a Queens native and owner of the Hustle Barbershop, sponsored one of his clients in a bid to run the New York City Marathon. But it wasn’t until a cold February night in 2018 that the group started to meet on a weekly basis. What began with just three participants—Mercado and his childhood friends Wil Pierce and Jason Nazryk—eventually grew into an established recurring Tuesday night community run and has spun off into training sessions on other days. “We are an inclusive crew who welcomes people of all walks of life and fitness levels…we have a dedicated group of walkers and months later some of those people have graduated to running their first race. Nobody ever gets left behind,” says team captain Angelo Hay.
Courtesy, Soca Run Club and Festival
Meet-up location varies, Mondays & Tuesdays at 6:30pm
After completing the 2017 Rock ’n’ Roll New Orleans half marathon, Troy Johnson wondered how he could merge two things that he loves—Caribbean soca culture and running. He also wanted to support more Black runners who were interested in running marathons. “Every time I completed a marathon, I would realize that less than 5 percent of the runners in my running club were Black, but I knew hundreds of Black runners. A lot of the existing events were not geared to appeal to our culture,” says Johnson.
Thus the Soca Run Festival—a 5K run with an infusion of Caribbean carnival culture—was born. The club, meanwhile, meets regularly for two weekly runs that finish at local Black-owned businesses.
Astoria Track, Queens, Tuesdays at 7pm; Queens Bully, 113-30 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills, Queens, Thursdays at 6:45pm
Head to Queens to run with Team Wepa, the energetic crew with the motto We Do It for Queens. The founder, Gee Rodriguez, started this group in 2016 to give local runners in the borough an option close to home. “It was created to inspire Queens residents that didn’t look like your typical runner or ever considered running a part of their lifestyle, to feel welcomed and inspired. It’s not about speed or competition here...it’s about inspiring new runners to continue to make running a part of their everyday lifestyle. We start as friends and then become family,” Rodriguez says.
Boys & Girls High School Track, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Mondays at 7am; Central Park Reservoir, Manhattan, Tuesdays at 6:30am (7am in winter); Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Tuesdays at 6:15pm (mid-April to mid-November); The Brooklyn Circus, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, Thursdays at 6:15pm & Saturdays at 6:30am (7:30am in winter); The Armory Track, Washington Heights, Manhattan, Tuesdays at 6:45pm (mid-November to mid-April)
TeamWRK began the way many running groups do: with a small group of friends training together for a race. Now it has over 150 members who race all over the world. “People should join TeamWRK because there’s space for everyone. Whether you’re working on getting back in shape or trying to BQ [Boston Qualify, for the running newbies], everyone on the team is there to encourage you,” says TeamWRK member Jamila G. A single-session drop-in costs $25.
Courtesy, We Run Uptown
Locksmith Bar, Washington Heights, Manhattan, Mondays at 7:15pm; The Chophouse, Inwood, Manhattan, Wednesdays at 7pm
In 2013, when Hector Espinal started running in his neighborhood of Washington Heights to lose weight, he crossed paths with Josh Mock. The two later came together to create We Run Uptown, what cofounder and captain Mock calls “a safe space for everyone of all levels of fitness to simply run three miles together.”
Join WRU for a run to get a real feel for Uptown Manhattan. “Most people that visit NYC don’t make it past Central Park, especially if they’re running. We’re giving folks a real running tour on what these neighborhoods look like every night,” says Mock.