Jessie Zapo has been shaping our local running community for over a decade. She began with Bridgerunners, co-created Black Roses, and has gone on to form our TTB Brooklyn co-host: Girls Run NYC. As her friends and colleagues, we appreciate her strength, down-to-earth personality and commitment to grassroots running. We hope you get to know her through our interview:
GIRLS RUN NYC . . . GROUP, CLUB, OR CREW?
Girls Run NYC is a collective. It is an open community of women that started around an open women's workout that I started in the end of 2014. The women who run with Girls Run NYC often belong to other running clubs/crews/communities as well. We are not exclusive and aim to be inclusive.
JESSIE, YOU ARE A LEADING FIGURE IN THE RUNNING COMMUNITY. TELL US THE STORY OF HOW YOU CAME TO RUNNING, AND THE EVOLUTION TO WHERE YOU ARE AT TODAY WITH GIRLS RUN NYC.
I grew up an athlete, but left sports (track & field and volleyball) behind when I decided to pursue a life as an artist and then came back to running in my 20's when I was invited to join the Bridgerunners. What is different though, is that at that time there wasn't an "urban running scene"; there was just a couple of guys getting together in Chinatown to run over the bridges.
Now ten years later, it seems that the world caught on that running is pretty great, and of course "athleisure" is popping so I guess we did what we aimed to do, which was make running cool. I joined Bridgerunners around 2005 ish and then co-founded Black Roses NYC in 2012...then started the BKfastclub as a very casual conceptual morning run club in 2013 and then created Girls Run NYC in the very end of 2014.
My aim is to keep evolving with culture and ideas about running and what people need from it, and what is sustainable long term because I'm in it for the long haul. I want to be holistic in my approach, and that's where the focus has been with Girls Run NYC.
TELL US ABOUT THE INSPIRATION FOR GIRLS RUN NYC. HOW HAS IT EVOLVED OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, AND WHERE DO YOU SEE THE GROUP MOVING IN THE COMING YEARS? HOW IS GIRLS RUN NYC DIFFERENT THEN OTHER RUNNING GROUPS IN THE CITY?
I have always enjoyed training women and training with women. I have trained with women a lot through Bridgerunners, starting Black Roses in 2012 and then finally creating a women's specific running collective Girls Run NYC and it has always given me life! I particularly focus on the community building aspect, and I want to give women tools that they can take with them.
Girls Run NYC started as a pop-up run, and I wanted it to organically grow so that I could get an idea of what women responded to. I have some things in the works for Girls Run NYC that I can't share yet, but it will evolve again soon-- and I'm excited about that. I guess what really makes us different right now is that we are an All Women's Collective and we are also in constant communication with each other, so it's become kind of a powerful network of women who are connected in an authentic way.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WEEKLY RUNS.
Brooklyn is home base and our workouts are weekly at McCarren Park Track. If we organize other runs it might be out of my apt. in Ft. Greene or some of the other women's places. We used to meet for long runs out of the LES in the summer. Sometimes we do pop-up runs downtown Manhattan as well.
THIS WILL BE GIRLS RUN NYC’S FIRST TIME BEING A PART OF OUR BRIDGE RACES, BUT THE GIRLS ARE NO STRANGERS TO URBAN RACING. MANY OF YOUR RUNNERS HAVE PARTICIPATED IN OSR RACES, AND YOU HAD A STRONG PRESENCE IN THE RED HOOK CRIT 5K THIS YEAR. WHAT HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE OF THE URBAN RACING SCENE BEEN, AND WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST IN HOSTING TTB?
We have all paces and abilities in our collective...so it's a beautiful thing to have Girls race competitively alongside other Girls who are just there to challenge themselves. The urban racing scene is fun because it's relatively underground, which I love. It's also often our friends and peers participating in urban races so it can feel like an intimate community.
We are excited and honored to be hosting the race. A lot of us are often racing, cheering or volunteering so this TTB will be an opportunity for us to do that as a team. I think all aspects are equally exciting and vital to the race experience and to running culture...so it will be a really fun night for us. I am most looking forward to cheering the runners on!
FAVORITE RUNNING ROUTE?
Favorite run route is along Flatbush Ave. to Rockaway Beach. We can make it between 13 & 16 miles.
I can't choose a favorite. I love bridges in general. I have run the Manhattan bridge more than any, and love it at night and early morning. The Brooklyn Bridge is amazing at dawn and the Williamsburg bridge is perfect at the magic hour.
Track work with Intervals of 400 or 800.
FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT FOR POST RUN RE-FUELING? COFFEE OR BEER?
Girls Run NYC holds court at Sottocasa Pizzeria in Williamsburg after track on Wed. nights. Great vibes and rose all day.