Amir Figueroa, A product of the people!!
- June 6, 2022
We've talked to many runners in the community but every so often we come across runners that are literally being the change in their communities. Being the type of change that helps an entire community take one step closer to being represented the right way not only in running but through other avenues as well. Not only does he represent his crew as a captain for Harlem run, but this brother is also one of the most inspiring people I’ve seen and it’s only right we get a chance to chat with him in this issue of Mid Strike. I think it’s safe to say that this is a healthy chat with Harlem Run captain and leader Amir Muhammad Figueroa.
MSM: Welcome brother, we're glad and excited to speak with you here at Mid Strike. You are a person with a wealth of knowledge and information which we’ll get into but for now let's start with the obvious. What was it that made you want to get involved in running, was it something that was always a part of your lifestyle?
AMF: Running has been part of my life since 2002, but it was always solo and often on a treadmill or track. In 2009 I met a good friend of mine, Maria A. Davis, who told me that she was going to walk the NYC Marathon. She was raising money for Harlem United, and I should join her. So, I did! Raising money for a charity gets you automatic entry and they have a running coach training all those on the fundraising team. I met some great people and had a transformative experience. I remember hitting the wall and wanting to stop, but I remembered “why” I was running and pushed through to the finish. My “why” was all the people who counted on Harlem United. I thought of each and every person who utilized the services they offered. From then on, I wanted to share that with others.
MSM: Take us through the start of your fitness journey. We’re essentially running in a sport that isn't diverse nor is representative of what the running community truly represents. Was this something that you noticed early on in running where you noticed and knew something had to change?
AMF: Initially I did not notice, because I was just so focused on getting those in my community to experience it. Which is why I started within my church in Harlem, FCBC. I shared my vision with the pastor, which was to get people outside and moving! I knew the power of movement and wanted to be the person to help lead the way. I was given the okay to move forward and never turned back. I learned so much in running, walking, and run/walking with all ages, shapes and sizes of people who chose to join me on Sundays. At a point it did hit me how few Black and Brown people were doing this on a regular basis.
MSM: We all want change but most of us don't understand the patience and process that goes into changing narratives. It's really like a marathon or planting a seed as it takes years of progress. What have been some of the seeds that you’ve planted over the years that you've slowly started to see blossom?
AMF: The first seed planted was when I emailed everyone from my running group at my church and said we’ll be joining Harlem Run from here on out. I realized there was an opportunity to join forces with Harlem Run and grow together, rather than in competition. It was important to me that Harlem Run added a walking group to ensure that the group was truly inclusive. Despite being someone who trains for ultra-marathons and has Boston-qualified, I took on the role of being the walking pacer and it was an honor. That very walking group birthed a “run-walking” group, which was a great option to offer to those who joined us every week. The second seed has to be the people I invited to an experience. Some would come for a little while and others a bit longer. Some just to get a good run in and others to step into a leadership role. Each and every person helped me grow as a man, leader and community member. I hope I did the same for them. The last seed was the most important because it was planted with Alison. I never knew what people meant when they would say, marry your best friend. Alison and I were friends first and that made everything so easy. Now we have a son who we keep grounded in our love.
MSM: I see that there’s a genuine love with you and running as your track record speaks for itself on the pavement. Take us through some of your previous experience with races. What have been some of your favorites and some of the upcoming ones that you are looking forward to.
AMF: As a participant I really enjoyed the Selma-to-Montgomery relay. I ran that along with Philippa and my wife, Alison, who was still pregnant with Kouri back in 2019. And there is nothing like running through the Five Boroughs of NYC. I’ve run the NYC Marathon four times, and will be back in 2023. As a race organizer/director I really enjoyed hosting our Harlem1-Miler around Marcus Garvey Park. It’s hard getting permits in NYC, so we’re no longer able to host it, but we have two races this summer in New
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