Meet The Members: Chi Iregbulem
“I heart New York!” PPTC member Chi Iregbulem says while smiling and making the shape of a heart with her hands. Chi has been a New Yorker for 32 years. She was born and spent her first three years in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, but the rest of her life has been in Queens, Long Island and Brooklyn. However, she began to experience and embrace it in a new way three years ago after becoming a New York City runner. While running through Prospect Park she connects with it and sees parts that she has never seen. Running through the streets of Brooklyn allows her to see the city “…in a way that you can only do while running. All the nuances…the little shops…over the bridges, you can’t see the city like that from a car.” She also feels the connection to the runners of this city, a very specific community that she is glad to be a part of.
Specifically, she values her membership in the Prospect Park Track club. “Everybody is welcoming and supportive. It’s what kept me going.” Chi stresses, “I am not a fast runner, but (in PPTC) I’ve never felt bad for that, or less than anyone else.” Quite contrary, she’s felt appreciated.
Chi’s parents came from Nigeria and had Chi and her two younger brothers in the US. She attended the United Nations International School (UNIS) and then catholic high school on Long Island. It was in high school when she first began running, joining the cross country and track teams. Chi stated that she “enjoyed running,” but despite the three mile races she participated in at Van Cortlandt and Sunken Meadows parks, she was “…always a better sprinter.”
While attending Syracuse University for her undergraduate degree in TV, Film and radio production and then Baruch College for her MBA, she stopped running. She remained “balanced”, as she puts it, with dance and yoga classes. Receiving some harsh comments about her size from family members while at a wedding in May 2006; she was rightfully hurt, but then used it as motivation. Shortly after, a googled search for “track clubs” led her to PPTC. She started her engagement in the club and running with the Tuesday night Speed Series trainings. “I remember the first night I came. I was dressed totally wrong for running. And although I thought it would come right back to me, no way!” Chi found the trail run that Coach Tony had the group do almost impossible; after all it was 15 years since she had run.
She did not give up on that day, or any day since. “No matter if I’m limping across the finish, I’m going to finish every race I start.” Chi raced the PPTC Turkey Trot that year, her first since high school. She noticed her progress in the short amount of time since she came back to running and welcomed that familiar ‘runner’s high’. She has run the Turkey Trot, among other races, every year since.
Every member of our club has individual goals and reasons why they started and why they continue it. Chi says, “I’m not a hardcore runner, but I get what they and every runner experiences. Racing gives me that adrenaline rush…I get that sense of accomplishment every race I do.” What Chi lacks in speed she makes up for in heart. She is a huge cheerleader of PPTC and runners in general. She volunteers in the club and her dedication can be counted on. And she is the spectator who will yell out the name of each individual runner who puts his/her name in their bib as she watches the entire NYC marathon run by.
Speaking of the marathon, Chi is flirting with the idea of giving it a go in 2010. “It’s one of my bucket list things to do. You have to do it if you run in New York City.” She’s completed six of the nine required qualifying races to date. “There is rarely a time when I don’t finish what I started.”
Chi’s non-running interests include spinning, roller skating and dancing. She’s studied hip hop and modern dance and spent several years with Harambee Dance Company, a contemporary West African dance troupe that performed in various places, including Ghana. Currently, Chi and her fiancé are planning a wedding. Finding that she was not interested in the traditional parts of a wedding, they are working out a way to make the event their own. They both spend some of their time in NYC and some in Baltimore where her fiancé’s job is based. Being a New Yorker through and through, she does not want to leave this city completely and is also finding the means to live a dual-city life.
Balance is a theme that keeps returning to Chi. She takes care of herself emotionally and coming back to running has allowed her to take care of herself physically. This balance may be the reason for the positive energy that she emits and can be felt by those around her.