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Run to Protest

Words by Mary Cain

From our NYC newsletter, we speak with Coffey, founder of DeFine New York Run Club, on how he is fighting to make both our sport and world a better place.

You have become an integral part of the NYC running community over the last couple of years. How did you first get involved in the NYC running?

My first involvement with NYC running was early on in the 2000's. I just wanted to learn how to get around by soaking everything in while paying attention to the different neighborhoods and what better way was it than to just run.  

Earlier this summer, you established a new running crew, DeFine New York Run Club. How did you go about creating the program and what inspired you to start a new group?

So after training so many people throughout the years through Nike training programs like Project Moonshot and Project Fearless - afterwards a lot of the runners would always ask me if I had a running crew or was about to start one. Years ago, I didn't have that, but that all changed at the beginning of this year when I decided to just start one and share what Coach Tony Cheong has been sharing with me for all these years and that was the hidden gems and abandoned buildings with art work in these streets. I called my run crew Define New York Run Club because that's exactly what we're doing while we are sharing miles. New York will never be completed so with that said we will always see something new. But the best thing is always having something to find and run to discover it as a unit and once you witness what we were all set out to see, it's one of the greatest feelings. Trust me, I do this all the time with or without people. And next thing you know the building or venue no longer exists so as an individual you're just happy you got to witness it within your lifetime of running. Define New York Run Club is a Saturday morning adventurous long run and no one gets left behind. Our mantra is: I Run. You Run. We Run Together. 

Along with creating a new group, you are the founder of Running to Protest. What would you like the NYC community to know about this new movement?

The Running to Protest movement was started because of what has been happening to Black people, people of color and indigenous people. So I call a friend of mine, a friend I've been looking up to for years with what I had in mine and here we are, Power Malu and myself.  Personally, I've been dealing with racism as far as I can remember - so can you imagine how long our ancestors have been dealing with it? So once I saw what happened to Mr. Admaud Arbery, Mr. George Floyd, Ms. Breonna Taylor and the list goes on, it was time to see how I can help. And I don't want my kids to go through the same bullsh*t that I've gone through just because of their skin color. We teach our kids to learn and want them to be better than us so it's not right when they become older and set out for a job, they get overlooked because someone is jealous of their shade. And that's just a small part of the problem because there's so many more. So all I want the NYC community to know is if you're really about no justice, no peace and you want to help create change, pull up because we're here. And you can follow @RunningToProtest and my personal @ThatCoffeyBoy on instagram to see what we're doing next. 

When is your next Run to Protest Event? How can runners get involved - both in-person and virtually?

Our next Running to Protest event will be October 4th, which is the first weekend of the month. We usually have it every second weekend of the month but this time around because the focus will be around voting we want to make sure everyone gets registered before the deadline. As mentioned, if you want to get involved just come out and help us amplify what we're doing because it's so well needed. And if you really care, take the time to help wherever you fit in at. We are a very welcoming and inviting group of runners that love each and every individual for just being themselves. If in person, pull up, if virtually, yes, you can have a Running to Protest movement if your city or town. San Francisco reached out and asked from the first event we had in June and I was like 'of course' because numbers and visibility is key and using social media towards our advantage is how we unlock the door with that key. It's a fight that we will continue. 

Last but not least, if you haven't already, go and watch my award winning short film 'About The People'. You can find it at and it's 28 minutes and something that's key to Running to Protest. I say that because I wrote with my co-writer Samuel K. Rhind in 2016, produced it in 2018, premiered it last year in the film festival in 2019 and made it live for people to watch it for free a couple months ago this year in 2020. See, 4 years ago my son was afraid to be outside in the dark because he feared him and his friends would get killed by the cops and as a dad, that was the first time I didn't have an answer for him because you can't sugarcoat that type of situation. So, while running one night, it dawned on me to write a film about this because if he's feeling that way can you imagine how many other teenagers are feeling the exact same let alone adults. So, I went to a great friend/brother of mine, Michael Kenneth Williams and told him what had just happened and he stopped me before I finished and said, 'I'm down because if we don't who will save our kids as well as us'. So, that's why the rest of the cast is very well known actors because we all are in this fight together. About The People is about concerned pillars in the African American community meet with one goal in mind; change. Do me a favor and go check that out.