Community Spotlight: Suzie Clinchy of Fast Feet NYC
Suzie Clinchy is a runner, educator, USATF & Special Olympics coach, and Founder of the nonprofit organization Fast Feet NYC. She founded Fast Feet NYC back in the summer of 2018, with a mission to make running inclusive and accessible to all children and young adults with developmental disabilities. Prior to starting Fast Feet, she was a public school mathematics teacher for both middle and high school and youth track and field coach for quite a few years. She was a math major at Wake Forest University and received her Master’s Degree in Adolescent Education from St. John’s University, through the NYC Teaching Fellows program. Currently, she also sit on the Advisory Board for Pace University’s Nutrition and Dietetics Program and continue to teach math through the nonprofit – Common Denominator.
How did you get started in running? What motivates you? Do you have any favorite routes or races in NYC?
I began running in high school to stay in shape for the other sports I played – field hockey and softball. I immediately fell in love with running track and continued running in college, competing in cross country and track for Wake Forest University. After college and a number of injuries, I quit running for four years. A few years ago, I decided to try a few runs here and there and slowly began getting back into the running world! I now run with the Westchester Track Club and the amazing Coach Mike Barnow.
Like most athletes, I’m motivated by the idea that I haven’t realized my full potential yet and I can continue to improve. After injuries and a prolonged time away, I also have an increased appreciation for simply going for a run and enjoying the positive mental and physical benefits of our sport!
I’m a committed soft-surface runner, so I log most of my miles around McCarren Park, the bridal path in Central Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and Rockefeller State Park in Westchester.
What inspired you to found Fast Feet?
Having worked with kids for most of my adult career, I saw the benefits of physical activity for all of my students. One of my good friends was a teacher at a school for children with autism and encouraged me to think about starting a running club at his school. I took him up on his suggestion and as soon as I began working with and coaching adaptive runners, I knew I wanted to continue working with students with developmental differences in the context of athletics. We saw massive improvements in fitness, coordination, endurance, confidence, and a positive perception of physical activity in just a few months of running together. It was so exciting to see their progress! I couldn’t find similar programs to what we had created in NYC, so I decided to take the leap and start my own nonprofit to serve athletes with disabilities in NYC and provide inclusive athletic spaces for runners of all abilities.
What is the mission of Fast Feet and how do you see Fast Feet fitting into the bigger picture of NYC’s wellness and running community?
Our mission is to make running, athletics, and physical wellness inclusive and accessible by providing adaptive running programs, nutrition education, and social skills development for schools and communities that serve individuals of all abilities.
We advocate for health equity for all youth and young adults who are neurodiverse or have a disability. We offer 10 hours of weekly in-person and virtual fitness, yoga, running, nutrition, and social skills classes for hundreds of youth and young adults here in NYC (and beyond!).
Prior to COVID-19, we would routinely take our runners to popular NYC road races and track meets at The Armory and Icahn Stadium. We are often the only team competing with adaptive athletes on the starting line but we love that we can inspire other runners simply by trying our best in a race and pushing past preconceived notions. By partnering with other local running and fitness clubs, studios, and organizations in NYC, we hope to help bring awareness to the importance of inclusion in sport, providing a safe and supportive environment for runners of all abilities to participate in athletics and physical activity, and highlighting public health issues that disproportionately affect the disability community.
What do you see for the future of Fast Feet? What about your own future goals as a runner?
Like many organizations, the global pandemic has forced us to get creative in how we can continue to serve our athletes each week. This spring, we were thrilled to launch our Virtual Training Program, allowing us to stay connected with our athletes and families, while expanding our geographic range! In addition to our six in-person programs throughout NYC, each week we offer virtual fitness, yoga, social skills, and nutrition education classes. Our focus over the next few years will be to expand both our in-person and virtual programs nationwide and emphasize three important factors of health equity: physical activity, nutrition access and education, and social skills development for children and young adults of all abilities.
Personally, I would love to take a shot at qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials…depending on any changes in the time standard 🙂 Other than that, I just want to continue to stay healthy, have fun, and chip away at my mile, 5K, and half-marathon PRs.
How can someone get involved and support your mission?
There are a number of ways to get involved with Fast Feet! You can volunteer with our athletes both at our in-person programs and our virtual classes. You can join our Leadership Council Advisory Board. You can help us each month organize our Black Lives Matter Run at McCarren Park – our next one is Saturday, October 17 at 10:30AM. We are raising money for the Running River Collective! Finally, any donation amount will help us continue to provide 10 hours of weekly programming for youth and young adult runners of all abilities.
Link to get involved: www.fastfeetnyc.com/getinvolved
Link to donate: www.fastfeetnyc.com/donate
Stay in touch and follow us on Instagram at @fastfeetnyc!