+
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.

Education

12 books that people say are life-changing reads

Some books have the power to change how we see ourselves, the world, and each other.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Books are powerful.

As a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

Out of all human inventions, books might just be the greatest. That may be a bold statement in the face of computers, the internet and the international space station, but none of those things would be possible without books. The written recording of human knowledge has allowed our advancements in learning to be passed on through generations, not to mention the capturing of human creativity in the form of longform storytelling.

Books have the power to change our lives on a fundamental level, shift our thinking, influence our beliefs, put us in touch with our feelings and help us understand ourselves and one another better.

That's why we asked Upworthy's audience to share a book that changed their life. Thousands of responses later, we have a list of inspiring reads that rose to the top.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Things new parents think they need but don't.

There's nothing like preparing for a new baby. The excitement and anticipation take hold and before you know what's happening, your baby registry is five pages long full of things you've probably never heard of. I've been there before, and now, four kids later, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are tons of things you actually don't need. It's easy to get carried away when everything is so tiny and cute, especially 'cause marketing around baby stuff is bananas. The following offers some alternative items to the ones you'll likely only use a limited number of times before practicality takes over.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Terrified, emaciated dog comes to life as volunteer sits with him for human connection

He tries making himself so small in the kennel until he realizes he's safe.

Terrified dog transforms after human sits with him.

There's something about dogs that makes people just want to cuddle them. They have some of the sweetest faces with big curious eyes that make them almost look cartoonish at times. But not all dogs get humans that want to snuggle up with them on cold nights; some dogs are neglected or abandoned. That's where animal shelters come in, and they work diligently to take care of any medical needs and find these animals loving homes.

Volunteers are essential to animal shelters running effectively to fill in the gaps employees may not have time for. Rocky Kanaka has been volunteering to sit with dogs to provide comfort. Recently he uploaded a video of an extremely emaciated Vizsla mix that was doing his best to make himself as small as possible in the corner of the kennel.

Kanaka immediately wanted to help him adjust so he would feel comfortable enough to eat and eventually get adopted. The dog appeared scared of his new location and had actually rubbed his nose raw from anxiety, but everything changed when Kanaka came along.

Keep ReadingShow less
Internet

Man breaks down how living in an all-inclusive resort is cheaper than his average apartment

"I just might find myself on a beach somewhere sucking down cocktails and WHAT OF IT."

Representative Image from Canva

Are resorts the new retirement homes?

Don’t know if you heard, but the cost of living is pretty high these days. Prices for groceries, restaurants, gas, and other necessary items just to, you know, live in the world, reaching an all time high is already making what used to be a decent wage barely enough to get by.

And let’s not forget the biggest financial whammy of all: rent prices. According to Zillow, the average rent price in the US was $1,958 ( recorded in January 2024). That a whopping 29.4% price jump since pre-pandemic times. And of course, that not even taking larger, more expensive cities into account.


It’s enough to make you wonder: “Is it actually cheaper to just live in an all-inclusive resort at this point?”
Keep ReadingShow less
Family

People kept telling me to watch 'Bluey.' I still was not prepared.

Some adults say it's healing their inner child, but there's something in the popular Australian kids' show for everyone.

"Bluey" is popular with all ages, despite being aimed at kids.

I have a confession to make. I'm 48 years old, my youngest child is in high school and I can't stop watching "Bluey."

For the uninitiated, "Bluey" is a kids' cartoon from Australia aimed at 5 to 7-year-olds. It's been nearly a decade since my household has seen that demographic, so when people kept telling me I should watch "Bluey," my reaction was basically, "Yeah, I've already done my kiddie show time, thankyouverymuch."

Then my almost-15-year-old started watching it just to see what the fuss was about. And as I started tuning in, I saw why people love it so much. I figured it was going to be a wholesome show with some good lessons for kids, and it is.

But it's also laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

Video shows 80 years of subtle sexism in 2 minutes

Subtle, persistent sexism over a lifetime is like water torture.

via HuffPo

Condescending sexism is persistently cliché.

Subtle, condescending sexist remarks such as "When are you going to have children?" and "You'd be so pretty, if you tried" are heard by women on a daily basis. Like water torture, what's subtle and persistent can become debilitating over a lifetime.

Making things more difficult is the contradicting nature of many sexist clichés that women are subjected to starting in childhood, such as "Is that all you're going to eat?" and "You eat a lot for a girl." Then there are the big-time, nuclear bomb sexist remarks such as "Don't be a slut" and "What were you wearing that night?" that are still shockingly common as well.

Keep ReadingShow less