Alison Desir was a top sprinter and a scholar in high school—she was also the girl voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” After college—she graduated from Columbia University in 2007—she started her career, which included working as a paralegal at a prestigious law firm. But in 2010, she felt like her world was crumbling.
Her father’s condition—he’d been diagnosed with dementia four years earlier—deteriorated considerably. Desir was also disillusioned with her job, and after experiencing some knee pain, she was told by her doctor she should never run again.
She was unhappy, insecure, and she fell into depression: “All my friends were excelling in their jobs, making lots of money, and I felt helplessly lost,” says Desir, 30. “I had no direction.”
By 2012 she’d been struggling through her depression for two years, and some friends suggested that she run a marathon with Team in Training. It helped her find the motivation she need to break the cycle, and it led her to this race, which she’ll run for the second time on November 1.
“Getting back to my roots as a runner was just the ticket I needed,” she says. “It became a religious experience and started to lift the depression.”
Desir blogged about her running and depression, and as she gained a following, she found out that she wasn’t alone. “Running is what helped me overcome depression, she says. “And it’s the tool I use to help others find their strength to do the same.”
In 2013 she started Harlem Run, a free program in her neighborhood that now has 100 members; they meet to run together on Mondays and Thursdays. “If running empowers people, imagine what it can do for an entire community,” she exclaims. “I want people to realize that running is fun and social and within their ability.” Harlem Run members will be manning the mile 21 fluid station on Sunday.
“Running the marathon is unlike any other experience in the world,” she says. “I can’t wait to feel the electric energy along the course in Harlem.”
Desir has overcome her depression in some respects, but it’s still something she struggles with, and running is one of her coping mechanisms. She’s currently working toward her second master’s degree at Columbia University—this time in psychology, so she can go into counseling. “I found myself through running,” she says. “Life is short—go run a marathon. And make it the TCS New York City Marathon. There’s nothing else like it to lift your spirit.”
Get an inside look at the #TCSNYCMarathon Journey, including Desir's own video and many others!
By Gail Kislevitz
Watch the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon on November 1 on WABC-TV, Channel 7, in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. EST and watch it across the country on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST.
Enter to win guaranteed non-complimentary entry to the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon now.