Jessie Zapo is Empowering Women Runners in NYC

Young woman running in New York City

In cities around the world runners are joining forces, creating running clubs to explore urban environments and meeting their goals together. The ultimate urban running influencer is Jessie Zapo. She’s featured in The Overthrow Series, our campaign celebrating women making waves in the athletic world.

Jessie has spent the last decade bringing people together through running — focusing on creating opportunities for women runners to collaborate and reach their goals together.

Jessie Zapo running in New York City

“I think as a woman in sport, we become very aware of our gender,” said Jessie. “My goals are always evolving. One of them is women’s empowerment through sport.”

Jessie has found her niche in urban running, making a name for herself in running clubs throughout the city.

To understand what she’s done, it’s important to know what makes urban running unique. For starters, it’s a completely different scene. Swap out country landscapes for hoards of people and skyscrapers that runners navigate like mazes.

Social running clubs — like NYC Bridge Runners where Jessie got her start in 2005 — are popular in urban environments because they create solutions for challenges unique to cities:

  • Safety in numbers
    In cities like New York, London and Paris running alone after dark isn’t always safe — especially for women. When runners join forces they can offer each other comfort and support.
  • No headphones needed
    So many things can cause distractions in urban environments, from changing traffic lights, to cars, to crowds of people. Wearing headphones with loud music can be a distraction, but for many runners music is motivation. Running in groups adds a social, entertaining element that doesn’t get in the way of runners staying focused. It’s the perfect solution.
  • Interval training
    City running is never boring. With all of its challenges, it becomes its own form of interval training. Stop and go with the traffic lights. Sprints on avenues, and jogs on the outskirts — the city terrain keeps runners on their toes.

Young woman stretching in New York City

These solutions are exactly what attracted Jessie to urban running. She’s been able to combine her love of running with community. Over the years, Jessie has gone on to build running communities across the world. She’s collaborated with London’s Run Dem Crew and has been featured in adidas’ Here to Create campaign.

Now, Jessie is taking her passion a bit further and focusing on women’s running. Jessie founded Girls Run NYC in 2015 for women of all backgrounds and running levels. Each week she leads the group on runs across the city, helping them improve their skills.

Her goal is simple: “I want to overthrow boundaries…I’m fighting for women, young and old. I’m fighting for myself.”

Young women running in New York City

What Jessie has done for running — specifically for women’s running — is quite the feat. She’s taken challenges for women runners in an urban environment and provided a community solution. As a result, she’s made women’s running empowering. Women need a breakthrough and Jessie’s doing it.


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