The Running Edge Youth : A Healthy Outlet for Young Runners
by Ashley Toussaint
In the spring of 2019, The Running Edge Youth launched under the vision and leadership of Coach Richard Davis. Davis was a middle-distance standout at South Shore High School in Brooklyn. He was an 800 meters specialist with a high in which Davis ran 1:51 and became one of the top runners in the city during the early 1980s. He also went to compete at the college at SUNY Farmingdale where ran a personal best 1:47. Davis finished with an impressive career. With over 40 years of experience as a runner, Coach Davis holds a wealth of knowledge about the sport. In 2015 he joined Black Men Run New York City and is known among the group as Sensei, because of his willingness to share and teach the brothers within the group how to improve their running.
It was only natural that when his daughter Jahira became of age, that he would introduce her to the sport. She was a natural and inspired Davis’s vision for establishing a running organization that would teach young people the proper way to run to help them be competitive and possibly earn college scholarships. There is a tremendous amount of talent in New York City, especially in neighborhoods like Crown Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and Flatbush, which are the areas that Davis spent much of his youth.
In the winter of 2018, Davis decided to register his daughter Jahira in the 45th Annual Colgate Women’s Games under The Running Edge. She became the first youth runner under the organization. She competed in the 800 and 1500 meters, finishing in the top 10 in both events. Her performance did not go unnoticed. Her former running club noticed the improvements that Jahira had made under coaching from her father, Coach Davis. During that same meet, Coach Davis and Coach Toussaint, founder of The Running Edge helped one of Jahira’s schoolmates, Samira with her technique in the 55-meter dash. With some tweaking, consistency, and encouragement, Samira finished in 5th place at the championships. It was apparent that these coaches were on to something.
After the Colgate Games, Davis and Toussaint decided to launch The Running Edge Youth Academy in the spring of 2019 at St. John’s Recreation Center in Crown Heights. A few families from the community signed their children up. One was Kelly Bare, who had also run at the Colgate Games in 2018 with coaching from Coach Davis. Kelly had gone on to finish 3rd overall in the 1500 meters. She was so impressed with the coaching that she received, and decided to sign her children up for the academy, Drew and Lizzie. And just like that, the youth academy was coming together. Later on Dubar Smalls, Jr. would join. His father is a member of Black Men Run New York City. Dubar, Sr. wanted to allow Dubar to gain more running experience and receive quality coaching.
During that spring The Running Edge Youth participated in several races throughout the Greater New York City area, such as the Fred Lebow Classic in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx and the Brooklyn Half Marathon – Youth Mile along the Coney Island boardwalk. With each race, the team grew closer and stronger.
The first season ended bitter-sweet. It was the final race of the inaugural season. Each athlete had shown great improvement and growing confidence. On a sunny day in Central Park at a New York Road Runners young runners event, The Running Edge gained more attention, as Samira came in first place in the entire field in the 200 meters youth dash. Jahira finished respectively in 3rd place. Drew and Lizzie both finished in the top 10 and the coaches couldn’t be more proud. But later that afternoon, Coach Toussaint had a difficult announcement. After 10 years of residing in New York City, he had received a job offer to back to his hometown Miami, Florida which he decided to take.
As the founder of The Running Edge, an organization designed to build community through running, he was sad about his departure but was confident that the youth program would continue to thrive under the leadership of Coach Davis and his wife Lois. Their passion and commitment to the program was apparent. Toussaint knew that The Running Edge Youth was in good hands.
With such a great finish to the first season, the aim was to go into 2020 and improve. However, the would not be the case, especially in New York City, as it was hit with some of the most devastating impacts of the COVID-19 virus. Nonetheless, the Davis’s continued to keep the team intact. Lois became very instrumental in creating a WhatsApp group which allowed the group to frequently communicate. The group shares updates, workouts, photos, and videos to stay engaged during the most isolated moments.
After a year of being physically apart, The Running Edge Youth launched its 2021 campaign. Coach Davis began hosting weekly workouts at Prospect Park to get his anxious runners ready for races again. They had been away from competition for over a year. How would they respond? Would the passion still be there? Well, after participating in several races this spring and early summer. The Running Edge Youth has a bright future. They were able to participate in road races as the city opened up to in-person events. In their first race of the year, Lizzie ran her best time of 7:19, while her brother Drew also ran a personal best of 6:50 in the mile. They had improved during the pandemic. The team also participated in three separate 5k’s. Most notable the Bronx 5k and Juneteenth 5k hosted by Pace Runs, a minority-owned race company based out of New York City.
It is remarkable what the team has been able to achieve under the circumstances. For now, they are taking a break until August, as they get prepared for the cross country season in the fall. After being away from running for a year everyone appreciates being able to run together a lot more. The kids enjoy the time together. It has become more than running. The Running Edge Youth is a family and a community. It’s great than simply running, it’s a healthy outlet for children and families.