Alison Désir is a runner, and a runner on mission for all women. She started off at a quick pace, discovering running in 2012 as a tangible method to cope with depression.
“It was a very concrete way of tackling my goals. Back then I had no job, my boyfriend was cheating on me, my dad was sick — but with running, I had clear markers of progress. You could see the results”.
Fast forward (she’s super fast) to the recent past, Alison kicked off 2017 with a 240 mile fundraiser run on January 18th from Harlem to Washington D.C., in support of Planned Parenthood. Her goal was to raise $44,000 in honor of our 44th president — and she ended up raising well over $100,000.
No big deal. We went on an afternoon run with Alison, a New York City and Harlem native born to a Colombian mother and Haitian father, is already running onto her next project. In addition to being the founder of Harlem Run, an uptown running crew that is on a mission to empower urban communities to get fit (New Yorkers, they meet up on Mondays at 124th street and 5th ave if you want to join ‘em), Alison has recently founded Run 4 All Women, a grassroots organizations that uses running as a vehicle for social change:
“In one year we will have raised $150k — but how do we sustain this energy? With Run 4 All Women, we’re trying to show women that they can use running for more than just running. It’s a network of connections for women. It’s about giving people the tools to create their our communities. It’s not just about those running marathons, but it’s about those who just walk as well — anyone can join the movement”.
And in an an era of ever increasingly popular run crews — social media has played a significant role in building cult followings and building brand partnerships that otherwise might not have existed. But for Alison, it’s important to cut through the noise:
“Social media numbers are important, sure. But there can be too heavy of a focus on getting likes and numbers — what we all need to focus on is how can one actually influence and motivate people to change, and even more importantly: can you create other leaders?”
What’s most humbling about Alison is her goal to make Harlem Run crew expand beyond her own personality or character — she’s focusing on building hyper local affiliate groups with connections in the community.
“When I look at these big races, the culture of running is shifting so much — it’s more and more about the every day runner and person rather than the Runner. We have the power to create what we want to see in the world, and then to partake in it.”
And the culture shift is happening, which makes it an exciting time to see the fitness world multiply into many smaller, stronger and tight-knit communities.
You can catch Alison now in this new campaign “Unlike Any”, next to the likes of Misty Copeland, Natasha Hastings, Jessie Graff and Zoe Zhang:
Her advice to those running a half marathon for the first time?
“You should be nervous for a half marathon. We tend to miss the newness and excitement and we convince ourselves that everything is okay, that it’ll just be like running a 10k or something else — but it’s important to embrace the fact that it’ll be new and different. We need to normalize being uncomfortable because that’s how we grow.
Trust your training and listen to your body.”
Up next for Alison and Run 4 All Women are local runs this August 10th weekend, across the nation in New Jersey, California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Sign up here, and check out Alison’s website to learn more about work here and Instagram here.
Before we ran off in opposite directions, we asked Alison one last question — who would you want to most go on a run with, alive or dead?
She smiled at us and said: “Barack Obama — and I wouldn’t mind running into his wife along the way.”