When Alena Alasheeva lived in Williamsburg from 2010 to 2015, she used to see a group of runners streaming down Kent Avenue from time to time. But she never joined them—until she moved to Queens.
“I guess it was my way of staying connected to the area, to have another reason to come back to the 'hood,” she says.
She began occasionally showing up to NBR group runs, but often bailed, blaming her work schedule. “In reality, I barely knew anyone on the team and felt awkward striking up a conversation,” she admits. Then she became a Saturday Bridge Run leader in late 2018, which made her commit to running with the team at least once a week. She also became both a membership and social coordinator. “I love working, collaborating, planning and organizing events with my peeps.”
What she does when not running: “Hahaha, wait, do I need another hobby aside from running? Every January I sign up for the Goodreads reading challenge—pledging a number of books you're going to read during the year. Somehow I keep thinking 50 is a manageable number, but come October I find myself with 3 months to go, 20 books to read, and 1 ego to feed. It has become a tradition where my second half of the year consists of mainly two things: running and reading. I do love it though. It's my R&R.”
How she initially got into running: ”Well, running is not a go-to sport in the Eastern European culture. During my teenage years, if you saw someone running outside, you knew they were a ‘real deal’: a D1/2/3 athlete. Running to me was in the same realm as becoming an astronaut: It was never an option.
”I went to college in Boston and saw other mortals, like me, running on the esplanade. I went to a Nike store, got a pair of running shoes, and headed for a run on the esplanade the next day. I didn't even make it to the water before I started huffing and puffing, got a side stitch, and my face turned red. I wasn't sure if I was just dry heaving or about to throw up. My skin ‘felt’ at least 105 degrees to the touch, so I threw in the towel and walked back home. That was the end of my Boston running career. A few years later I moved to NYC, and signed up for JPMorgan Corporate Challenge. At first, that 4 miler seemed like an insurmountable distance to tackle.”
Favorite running route in NYC: “I live in Long Island City, so my favorite zone-out-and-run route is via Pulaski to West St, then along Kent Ave, continued around the Navy yard, hopping on Vinegar Hill cobblestones, looping around the carousel and then retracing the way back. It's a good 14–16 miler of low traffic and almost non-stop pathway.”
What running has taught her: “Running is this dear friend who will always be honest with you. It can humble and demoralize you when you're too cocky, but it can also uplift, encourage, and motivate you when you're feeling down.
”When I get frustrated or upset, getting a good run in usually fixes the bad energy. I wish I could say it provides me with a better perspective, and sometimes it does, but for the most part I'm able to blow off my steam and then direct the energy elsewhere.”
Favorite post-race food: “Pancakes! I love pancakes with butter. Not a fan of a maple syrup, really, and I think I just lost a few friends by disclosing that.”
Song that makes her want to run: “I'm a trip-hop/electronic genre person. So usually I end up listening to 1-2 hour long music sets on my runs, just getting lost in the sound progressions.”
The worst part about being a runner: “Every now and then I stumble on an article saying running is one of the cheapest sports: Just tie your shoes and go. Really?! I've been avoiding tallying up my running-related expenses for the past year, but I'm pretty sure I'm somewhere close to 5-digits.”
Best advice to running newbies: “I don't know about this being best advice, but I have 2 things I've learned or observed:
1. Distance comes first; speed follows. Don't worry about going too slow. Being able to cover a certain distance and not feeling like you want to die afterwards should be the primary focus.
2. The majority of runners are innately very nice. If you don't know anyone and feel like an outsider, approach someone, strike a conversation and see what happens. Every friendship begins with a smile ;)”