+
upworthy
Most Shared

Running doesn't have to be about winning races. Just ask this eclectic group of runners.

True
DICK'S Sporting Goods

Running clubs can feel exclusive and elitist to runners who love the sport but don’t fit the typical profile. The Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC) is different.

Sure, you’ll find the usual bunch of young, sleek speedsters among the club’s hundreds of active members spanning neighborhoods beyond Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

But then you’ll notice something else — something felt more than seen. Everyone seems to feel at home in this club.


“It makes being in a big city feel like a small town,” says Crystal Cun, 32. “Anytime I run in the park, I see a familiar face. You end up doing things with people beyond running.”

PPTC runners hanging out after a run. Photo by Jimmy Leung.

PPTC welcomes and embraces newcomers, whether they’re runners who fall to the back of the pack or ones who stand out for reasons other than their finish times.

And unconventional runners aren’t just accepted — they’re celebrated.

Take Michael Ring, 54, who joined the club in 1991 because he heard the club helped runners get into the New York City Marathon and provided a bus ride to starting line. Over the years, he completed 29 marathons, including ultra-marathons on half a day’s notice.

Then, in 2014, he had a stomach virus that turned into acute motor axonal neuropathy, a severe version of Guillain-Barré syndrome, causing his immune system to attack his nervous system, which led to muscle weakness and paralysis.

“I went from marathon-ready to quadriplegic in three days,” says Ring.

He was hospitalized for four-and-a-half months. But during that time, PPTC members visited him in the hospital almost daily, and afterward, they rallied around him as he fought his way back to the starting line.

Ring running the 2017 NYC Marathon. Photo courtesy of Michael Ring.

Ring says he isn’t religious, “but my running friends did what church friends would do. I had my own community.” PPTC member Nicoletta Nerangis even became his “running social worker,” helping him navigate the new world of being a disabled athlete.

In 2017, Ring finished his 30th marathon — his first since his illness — alongside his teenage son Nicholas and Nerangis. Some PPTC members jumped in and walked beside Ring for a couple miles, while others formed a special cheering section for him at the finish line after nightfall, more than nine hours after the start.

Ring at the 2017 NYC Marathon finish line. Photo by Amy Sowder.

“It was amazing,” says Ring. This club offers the kind of support that’s rare to find anywhere else.

Chaya Wolf, 34, joined PPTC in 2013 because hardly any women in her Orthodox Jewish community ran and she craved company on her runs.

“I was looking for people who spoke my language outside the Jewish community,” says Wolf. “For me, joining the club was the best thing that ever happened. I don’t know what I would do without my running buddies.”

Wolf organizes strength training sessions for the club, and she loves running on weekdays and competing in Sunday races. (Saturdays are out because that’s the Jewish Sabbath.)

Since her faith has a strong tradition of modesty, requiring women to cover their collarbones, elbows, and knees at all times, Wolf wears black leggings under sporty skirts when she runs. While other runners have noticed her somewhat different running ensemble, it breeds conversations about her faith rather than scrutiny.

Wolf (second from the left) with her running mates. Photo via Chaya Wolfe.

“It’s cool. I stick out, and I embrace it,” says Wolf. “And that’s what I love about PPTC — it’s such an all-inclusive community of diversity.”

Not only are PPTC members of varying abilities and faiths, their ages fall on a wide spectrum.

When Lisa Maya Knauer started jogging in the early '70s, women’s running shoes weren’t even available in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Like most female runners back then, Knauer had to wear men’s running shoes or generic women’s sneakers. The market for this kind of shoe was just starting: In fact, women weren’t even acknowledged in the Boston Marathon until 1972.

Still, Knauer jogged off and on over the next four decades, until her friend Murray Rosenblith encouraged her to join his PPTC running club. Knauer was 58. Her first run with the club was the Dyker Heights Lights Run in 2015, which goes through an elaborate holiday light display. Afterward, people meet for a drink in a warm bar.

Members of PPTC on a winter run. Photo courtesy of Lisa Maya Knauer.

“Someone brought cookies, and I thought that was really sweet. There was this camaraderie. I got this great sense of this club being very supportive,” says Knauer.

Knauer, now 61, has led club fun runs to restaurants and to see fireworks on the beach. She started a subgroup within PPTC, the Slow-and-Steady Runners, for runners who worry about not being able to keep up with the pack at the club’s other group runs.

The club’s support even helped her meet her goal of running a marathon before she turned 60. Now she’s training for her fourth.  

PPTC makes it clear that running is for anyone and everyone — and at its core, it’s about bringing people together to joyfully move as one.

Photo via Chaya Wolf.

Many of these PPTC members would’ve continued to jog alone like they did before they learned of the club if not for that smile from someone in a PPTC shirt at a race’s starting corral or the shouts of encouragement from a cluster of red-shirted hooligans on the sidelines.

These highly competitive people accept that everyone is an equally valued team player in PPTC. Sure, beating your personal-best time is important, but so is enjoying those you meet along the way. Exclusivity isn't cool.

“When you wear the PPTC shirt at a race, you always have a friend, even if you go there alone,” says Ring. “It’s an amazing cross section of Brooklyn people of every age, ability, race, and sexual orientation.

“We’re just people — people who like to run.”

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

Kevin Bacon's farm songs have become a social media favorite.

When Beyoncé dropped two songs from her upcoming album of country tunes, Renaissance: Act II, she may not have expected to make history, but that's exactly what happened. Her first single from the album, "Texas Hold 'Em," shot to the No.1 spot on the Billboard country music charts, making her the first Black female artist to hit that top spot. The catchy tune also topped the Billboard Hot 100 the last week in February 2024, a week after it debuted at No. 2.

Presumbaly, Queen Bey didn't expect her song to become an Irish stepdance hit, though that's also exactly what happened. And surely she didn't expect it to be sung by Kevin Bacon to a bunch of farm animals, yet that also has happened.

Perhaps we should all have expected that, though. There's a precedent here, after all.

Keep ReadingShow less
Courtesy of Woodell Productions

This speech had all the things, and the Maid of Honor wasn't even there

May we all have a best friend like Ally Lothman.

Lothman had just given birth to her first child (according to Today.com) and was unable to make it to the wedding of her lifelong best friend Michelle Levenson. But Lothman’s Maid of Honor duties were still gloriously fulfilled.

A now-viral video, posted to TikTok by wedding photography and videography company Woodell Productions, shows that even though Lothman couldn’t celebrate in person, her FaceTimed wedding toast managed to bring everyone at the reception—along with everyone who watched online—to tears.
Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Two brothers Irish stepdancing to Beyoncé's country hit 'Texas Hold 'Em' is pure delight

The Gardiner Brothers and Queen Bey proving that music can unite us all.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

People think everyone should experience these things 'at least once in their lifetime'

Things like seeing an eclipse and having a true best friend make life worth living.

Representative Images from Canva

Here are some things everyone should experience once in their lifetime

If there’s one thing human beings all have in common, it’s our shared impermanence. No matter our race, gender, social class, wealth status, health regimen, moral code, political leaning, or any other divisive element, we all get one life. One life to hopefully fill with as many memorable, soul nourishing, expansive experiences as possible.

But let’s face it, there are more experiences available that there are days and hours in which to do them. Therefore, we have to use discernment. So, which experiences are truly must-haves in our all-too-limited time on this planet?

The answers to this question are undoubtedly personal, but perhaps some things, just like the inevitable exit of mortal coil, are universal.

According to a recent discussion on Ask Reddit, here are things one must absolutely “experience at least once in their lifetime”:
Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Helicopter's thermal imaging helps save a young autistic girl lost in a Florida swamp

“I just love how the deputy greeted her. What a beautiful ending. You guys are the best!”

A deputy locates a missing girl in a Florida swamp.

A 5-year-old with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) wandered off into a swamp near Tampa, Florida, around 5:00 pm on Monday, February 26. The good news is that the girl was saved in about an hour thanks to the work of some brave sheriff’s officers and their incredible thermal technology.

The girl wandered from her home and was quickly reported missing by her family to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff quickly dispatched its aviation unit that used thermal imaging technology to scan the nearby swamplands to try to find the young girl before nightfall.

Thermal imaging technology captures images based on the heat emitted by objects, allowing us to see temperature differences even in the dark, making it super handy for night vision and heat detection. The thermal technology helped the officers quickly identify the girl from high above the trees.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

10 things kids get in trouble for that adults get away with all the time

Why do we expect children to have more self-control than grown-ups?

Photo by Keren Fedida on Unsplash

Kids know when we're being hypocritical.

Raising kids is tough and no parent does it perfectly. Each child is different, each has their own personalities, strengths and challenges, and each of them requires something different from their parents in order to flourish.

But there's one thing that parents have long said, with their actions if not with their words, that justifiably drives kids bonkers: "Do as I say, not as I do."

To be fair, both moral and actual law dictate that there are things that adults can do that kids can't. Children can't drive or consume alcohol, for example, so it's not hypocritical for adults to do those things while telling kids they cannot. There are other things—movies, TV shows, books, etc.—that parents have to decide whether their kids are ready for or not based on their age and developmental stage, and that's also to be expected.

But there are some gaps between what adults do and what they expect kids to do that aren't so easy to reconcile.

Keep ReadingShow less