TeamWRK’s Joseph Shayne and Jennifer Blalock Create a Safe Space for NYC Runners – MEFeater

TeamWRK’s Joseph Shayne and Jennifer Blalock Create a Safe Space for NYC Runners  MEFeater

Started by Joseph Shayne and Jennifer Blalock, Brooklyn-based running team TeamWRK also known as We Run Kings, is meant to inspire, build, and motivate. Since its inception in 2016, the organization has trained over 350 runners for various race events, from the 5K to the marathon distance. Over the past seven years, they have taken non-runners and athletes alike and given them the essential tools and techniques to not be afraid to conquer long-distance running race events. They are not only an organization. They are a community. They are a family.

Journey With Running

TeamWRK co-founder and running coach Joseph Shayne’s journey with running has been one of self-discovery and one that started later in life. Running has helped him in more ways than one and, in turn, has led him to help others.

The journey for me has been a journey of self-discovery and a realization of taking my place as a leader. I have always been athletic, but I only started running just before I turned 30. The best feeling is that I have gotten good very early on and better as the years have passed. Long-distance running is one of the few sports that you can do and improve as you age past preconceived prime ages. Helping others realize they can do more & be more as an adult athlete has been especially rewarding for me. 

Shayne’s love for running isn’t just a hobby or a job. It’s his passion and a part of him. His motivation is what keeps him going.  

I don’t just run. I live and breathe this. It is apparent to everyone I meet that not only am I excited about running, but I am even more excited to help others source their passion for running. There is a freedom that comes with running. There is a boldness associated with being able to run, especially as a Black man, and I encourage anyone that’s interested and able to participate in the sport to take the opportunity to do it.

The Inspiration Behind TeamWRK

TeamWRK started in 2016 to help a few of my friends, Fraternity Brothers (and Sorors), train for the 2016 Brooklyn Half Marathon. Most of them had never ran a half marathon, and those who had wanted to learn what they could do to run that race faster. I had started running two years prior and had gotten fast quickly, so a few of them asked me to help. I, in turn, asked them to help me become a coach, and that was the start. The inspiration came from elevating myself from a social runner to a local competitive runner and recognizing the need to help others improve themselves through running and fitness.

Initially, when the running team first started, they operated under the hashtag #NoSleepTilBKHalf, fueled by the motivation of the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Soon after, half the group wanted help training for the fall NYC Marathon. This led Joseph and Jennifer to officially create TeamWRK, with the letters WRK standing for “We Run Kings” and Kings meaning Kings County (Brooklyn).

When you see TeamWRK, you should read, “Team We Run Brooklyn.” The premise of the group is that we all care about running and fitness, and we are interested in improving in the sport and, in turn, improving our lives.

TeamWRK’s Purpose

From the beginning, TeamWRK has prided itself on being more than the average running club. It is a safe and inclusive space for Black and Brown people who want to improve their lives through running. TeamWRK gives them visibility in a lane that is not always associated with Black Americans, although they have dominated in the sport.

I think our deeper purpose is to be a vehicle for possibility. TeamWRK exists in a space that is not generally associated with Black Americans. Yes, Eastern Africans dominate the podiums, but Black Americans make up a small percentage of participants and an even smaller percentage of ownership within the space. Many of the Black running organizations operate by volunteers or by sponsorship by larger brands. There is nothing wrong with brand sponsorship, and TeamWRK is certainly open to that as well, but TeamWRK is a brand and a business that offers so much in addition to the space it creates for its membership. 

Success Stories

The organization has seen many success stories throughout the years, helping members improve their lives by putting their health first and reversing family diseases. Joseph and Jennifer have helped to turn lives around with their coaching methods and techniques to create some of the most inspiring success stories.

People who have never considered themselves athletic, let alone seen themselves as runners, progressed from being unable to run a short city block without losing their breaths to running an entire 26.2-mile marathon foot race without stopping. Our member athletes have shifted their lifestyles since joining the team. Much of the progress is gradual. Our members have transitioned from being non-runners to taking their health and wellness more seriously. TeamWRK members have traveled the world to participate in some of the biggest marathon events offered and have connected to the buzzing running community locally.

Members have lost tremendous amounts of weight and kept the weight off. Members have reversed family diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and insomnia and have become laser focused on their work and family lives. I think the most impressive thing is the level of consistency and the fact that once members change their lives, they reach out to others in their immediate circles and encourage them to improve their lives through running and fitness. Long-distance running is one of the few athletic activities that people can get better at as they get older, and the confidence that comes with that type of improvement spills into other areas of their lives.

As with Nike StudioNYC, TeamWRK is building a community for runners at all stages of their wellness journey. The Nike StudioNYC hosts community runs around the city that allows runners to connect with each other. Each community run takes place in a different location and is led by a different running coach.

You can come as you are and believe that the experience of running your first half/marathon will showcase your inner champion. Self-belief, being consistent, staying disciplined and being comfortable with where you are from the start are all keys to coming to enjoy this phenomenal sport of long-distance running. 

To start your running journey, visit Nike’s resource hub for runners,  Nike Studio NYC.  

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