On a hot Thursday afternoon, McCarren Park in Williamsburg bustles with activity. People from all walks of life stroll, run, and scooter around a track field while some do yoga, crossfit, and handstands in the grassy center. Here, Ian meets up with his running instructor – Suzie Clinchy of Fast Feet NYC.
They complete a few laps around the track. Most of the time, Ian and Suzie travel as a unit, but sometimes Suzie’s motivation propels Ian to take off. For the few hundred meters of sprinting, he is unstoppable.
After a quick water break, Suzie has Ian do some drills along the track’s straight side. Ian does short sprints, high knees, Frankenstein-kicks, skips, and ladder drills, accompanied by Suzie’s inspiring encouragement.
Suzie Clinchy founded Fast Feet NYC – a nonprofit organization dedicated to making running accessible to people with disabilities – in 2018. Her website specifies, “through the sport of running, Fast Feet athletes realize their athletic potential, increase their personal fitness, and push pass limitations associated with developmental differences.”
An All-American runner in high school and a Division I track-star at Wake Forest, Suzie has always been passionate about running. After graduating college, Suzie worked as a public school math teacher at a handful of schools, and in most of these, she started running clubs. Running club, a time when she would see her students outside of the classroom, was her favorite hour of the week.
As Suzie was finishing up her tenure with the New York City Teaching Fellows, a friend who was working at a school for children with Autism in Manhattan asked Suzie if she would start a running club at the school. Suzie took on the job, having never worked directly with students with Autism. She collaborated with their adaptive Physical Education teacher, and their Occupational Therapy / Physical Therapy (OTPT) department and developed a running program that serves people with disabilities. According to Suzie, from the first practice, she knew that creating athletic programs for people with disabilities was the path for her. Fast forward to a year later, Suzie launched Fast Feet.
Fast Feet makes running an inclusive activity for people with a diverse range of disabilities. The organization incorporates people with both developmental and physical disabilities into its programs. In addition to Autism, their runners have Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Partial Paralysis. They also have students who are blind and run with one of the organization’s guides. Fast Feet works with a range of youths and adults, from ages five to fifty-five.
After finishing the agility drills, Ian and Suzie complete a cool-down lap around the track. Sweaty but feeling accomplished following a hard workout, they end their session together with a high five.
Check out Fast Feet here: https://www.fastfeetnyc.com/