Let’s Run Together

Run clubs are the new book club—they can make a meaningful experience even richer. At REI, we celebrate running and community, from LA to Seattle to NYC.

It’s easy to view running as a solo endeavor. After all, there’s the romantic image of you against you out there—mind trying to tune in to the body, and vice versa. Sometimes you’ll put your headphones on to drown out the sound of your breathing or the whirr of the treadmill; other times you’ll simply turn inward, counting down the seconds until your training is over. On a great day, you’ll get lost in your surroundings: a picaresque rural landscape, lively city streets or cresting waves just beyond a stretch of coastline.

But what about all the other people doing exactly what you’re doing—jogging, surging, struggling and rejoicing on the roads, pavement, trails and track?

This year, we celebrate the run club: that electric assemblage of individuals who decide that no matter the pace, background or inner voice, they’ll run together.

Members of the nonprofit running group BlacklistLA: Erik Valiente (center), Carlos Desroses, Delia Guarneros, Elise Porter, Mario Granadeno, Mathew Godoy, and Vanessa Munoz.

Valiente founded the group in 2013, after failing to recruit running buddies for regular jaunts around the city. Riding public transit around downtown Los Angeles, he noticed murals decorating streets and buildings; invitations to not just run, but also explore LA’s outsider art grew into larger and expanded events, from walk-runs to track nights to marathon training. The group draws large numbers of runners from various backgrounds, aiming to include everyone by cultivating genuine community.

When it comes to achieving goals as a runner, Valiente believes joining a group can be a game changer. “Think less, do more,” he advises runners who struggle with consistency. “Lean into your teammates, and communicate.” This September, BlacklistLA will celebrate its 10th anniversary.

In Los Angeles, we spent time with several dynamic and inclusive clubs including the nonprofit BlacklistLA, whose photos and story you’ll find throughout this package; in our own stomping grounds, writer and REI member Heather Hansman profiled Club Seattle Runners’ Division co-founder Ashley Davies; and coming off the Berlin Marathon, runner Giovanna Fischer penned a personal essay that highlights her New York City running group of high performing marathoners, Black Roses. More on those stories below.

Ashley Davies Is Creating Space for All Runners

Ashley Davies, co-founder of Club Seattle Runners' Division, stands in front of fence, on a track, cheering on runners. Other runners stand behind her and behind the fence, also cheering.
Photo by David Jaewon Oh

When Ashley Davies, Miran Cash and David Oh saw their original running group shut down, they decided to start their own. But it wasn’t just about them finding another way to run with each other. “We wanted to make a safe space for us to be who we are and create community,” says Davies. “To use something we love as a vehicle to bring awareness.”

Running Is Creative. Running Is Collective.

A woman (author Giovanna Fischer) enthusiastically high fives a runner (her teammate Danielle McNeilly) in the middle of a race.
Photo by John Le Tran

Here we are, riffing on ideas about running zines, how to visually communicate our coaches’ workouts using shapes and the perfect shade of purple. After stewing in self-pity, longing for the schooling I felt cheated out of as a young adult, I return to running. Running is a creative practice. More specifically, in Black Roses, our school of running is contingent on creativity.  

Giovanna Fischer, “Running School”

It’s Your Run Crew: Movement Runners

We partnered with Brooks to profile a handful of LA run clubs that are leaving major marks on their communities, including Movement Runners, a Los Angeles run crew started by Kit John in 2020. Along with helping new runners get comfortable with the practice, Movement Runners spends the 3rd Saturday of each month providing services to people experiencing homelessness on Skid Row.

It’s Your Run Crew: Boyle Heights Bridge Runners

The second video in the series focuses on Boyle Heights Bridge Runners. Join Jenna Crawford in Los Angeles’ Mariacha Plaza as she meets up with Rolando and Gabby, who are growing a community-first run crew that’s as vibrant as the area they run in. (Stay tuned for our 3rd and final video of the series, on Eagle Rock Run Club.)

Top 3 Tips for First-Time Marathoners According to BlackListLA’s Erik Valiente

Believe in yourself: “You have to believe you can complete the training plan from day one,” says Valiente. “If there’s doubt and fear, then that’s OK, but half of you has to believe that you can run this marathon. And then with training, that confidence will kick in and it should be at 100% a couple weeks before racing.”
Start with strength work and base miles: “It’s super important for folks embarking on a marathon journey—or any running journey—to start with strength work so they can activate the muscles and stay injury-free throughout the 4-5 months of training.” With base miles, the goal is to gradually build up to 20 miles a week before getting to race-specific work.
Be compassionate to yourself and others: “Training for a marathon isn’t easy. You’re going to have super-highs and super-lows; it’s just a rollercoaster of running a marathon,” says Valiente. “You want to celebrate those highs but, on those lows, you want to be compassionate with yourself. Give yourself some wiggle room—if you miss a run here or there, it’s not going to ruin your training.”

Looking for a run club?

Even if you’re not in LA, Seattle or NYC, you can find the right run club for you. Check out our classes and events, join us virtually on Strava or search for a local group on Meetup. We’ve also partnered with Black Girls RUN!, who create safe spaces nationwide for African American women to participate in running.

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