Yeah. I thought you might like the title. You all know what I’m talking about, the running crew that epitomises London, creativity and has been one of the first, dare I say it, to make running cool.
Whether you’ve bought into it or not, one thing is for sure, the Run Dem Crew is a super-friendly and vibrant group of runner bought together by the enigmatic Charlie Dark. Let’s just say if I was to rewind the clock say 10 years ago, it would have been exactly what I would have wanted to get involved in. For it’s not just about running. In my opinion, it’s a place where you can make friends, find support and experience a feeling of togetherness in a big city that is not well-known for being the most welcoming of places.
That’s not to say that running doesn’t play a major part. Admittedly, when I first heard about Run Dem Crew and saw the support they garnered at many an event, I thought as a 30-something experienced runner, it was a) a bit too cool for someone with an addiction to The Archers and b) wouldn’t be challenging. I’m not saying I’m the best runner in the world or I’m over the hill but I’m hardly a trendsetter and when fit and not injured (god, it’s the story of 2016 so far!), I head to my running club’s track training because I know I will be pushed to the limit.
I’ve also had experience of “social running” in London and really enjoy meeting up with friends while we run together but it never has a place in my training schedule because I don’t think it will do what I want it to – which is to make me a me a stronger runner.
So when the opportunity came to join Run Dem Crew for a session as part of a new collaboration with Gymbox, I pompously thought, yeah, let’s give it a go, expecting it to be a 5 out of 10 on the difficulty scale. And I hold my hands up, I was wrong.
Everyone works as a group, shouting about obstructions in the way (which admittedly I found a bit overwhelming but that’s just me, the lonely long distance runner) before starting the real running. And it was totally about training to run, sections of slow steady pace interspersed with pacing games, sprint sessions and around 10-15 minutes focused on the part that many a runner neglects – the core. If you’re looking for motivation, knowledge and some guidance on how to train for a race or become a better runner, Run Dem Crew is worth considering.
Not convinced? Well maybe a few words from the founder Charlie Dark will sway you. I asked him a couple of questions below about success, how running has changed, motivation and the growth of the Run Dem community.
The Style Dynamo: For anyone who hasn’t heard of Run Dem Crew, can you tell me how it differs from other running clubs?
Charlie Dark: We kind of see ourselves as a running club remixed for people who think they don’t like running. In my experience of running clubs the focus was always on the actual running and the fastest people in the club. Community was never as important as crossing the finish line. In Run Dem we pride ourselves on being a community and family first and a running crew second. Our aim is to elevate everyone in the crew to be as good as each other. To be the best that we can be.
The Style Dynamo: You’ve been around for nine years now, how or have you seen the running scene change in that time?
Charlie Dark: It’s changed dramatically from a very much solitary occupation to a physical activity to be shared. The clothing has changed and become more fashion conscious especially in the women’s department. There is a whole underground culture that has grown within the urban running scene that was never around before that I feel has had a direct impact on running culture as a whole. The brands have definitely been listening and there are even greater changes to come.
The use of social media to connect with other running cultures is also something that has come into play and it means that wherever you go in the world there is always someone to take you around the city. The rise of apps, trackers and the number of races now offered all go to show that running is now a multi million pound business.
In some ways it’s good that the appeal has broadened but I do feel that the soul of running is being lost. I guess Run Dem is my way of trying to preserve the simple joy of running with friends at speed through the city I love.
The Style Dynamo: How do you define success?
Charlie Dark: Waking up before my alarm clock to do something I would do for free. I love what Run Dem has become and the community that has been built around it. The foundations are really strong and the future is looking bright.
The Style Dynamo: What’s your favourite motivational saying?
Charlie Dark: Do not run. Push earth down with feet.
The Style Dynamo: What made you start running?
Charlie Dark: A desperate desire to get into shape for a theatre role turned into the discovery that running made me feel good and it was a feeling I wanted to share. I started running for a purpose but I would never have continued for this long if it wasn’t for the crew.
The Style Dynamo: Live to run or run to live?
Charlie Dark: Run to live without question
The Style Dynamo: What’s the best piece of running advice anyone has ever given you?
Charlie Dark: It’s not how fast you go, it’s how you cross the finish line.
The Style Dynamo: For anyone training for their first race, what advice would you give them?
Charlie Dark: Focus on feeling and not time. Go out and enjoy the moment and celebrate the fact that you made it to the start line. Enjoy every step, high five the crowd and smile for the cameras even if it means slowing down.
The Style Dynamo: Run Dem is primarily an urban running group, do you ever hit the trails? And if so what is your favourite off-road route?
Charlie Dark: We have a large amount of members who like it tough and muddy but personally I like to keep it urban all the way. Saying that I love Epping Forest and Highgate Woods. I grew up running cross country which is probably why I’m so into exploring and running through real urban environments. A run is not complete without some hills and some stairs.
The Style Dynamo: Tell me about Gymbox Run Dem Crew – what is the idea behind this new collaboration?
Charlie Dark: Run Dem has become immensely popular but behind closed doors we are still a very small operation and space has always been an issue. The Gymbox sessions allow us to bring more people into the crew and to also introduces our existing members into the world of Gym life and other sports such as boxing where cardio fitness is an advantage.
We started as a running crew and that will always be our main focus but it’s important to evolve with the times so building athletes has become our focus into 2016. We’ve been fans of the Gymbox concept since they opened so a collaboration makes sense especially as the world of functional fitness and being fit for life becomes more popular. We started as runners but are evolving into urban athletes multi skilled in different disciplines.
Thank you to Charlie Dark and the Run Dem Crew at Gymbox Bank for making me feel so welcome. To get involved in the sessions and find out more, go to www.gymbox.com/classes/run-dem-crew