It says a lot about Run Dem Crew that I was excited to make the 80 minute round trip to Shoreditch even though I couldn’t run this week. I’m injured, but the chance to check in with my second family was too good to be missed. At Run Dem Crew, Housekeeping, which can last from 20 minutes to an hour- is one of the highlights of every Tuesday: a chance to hear what’s coming up in the future and what successes others have had in the past weeks. And I was dead excited about this week’s special event, which has been masterminded by our latest group of Youngers.
If Run Dem Crew is all about family, then the Youngers are the children. The Youngers programme was set up by Charlie Dark to mentor and empower young people aged between 16-24. By moving from sofa to finish line these young people learn to redefine their limits and set new goals in all aspects of their life. The programme also introduces them to the creative network that exists within the crew, supporting them to grow into the best versions of themselves they can be. Every good story features a wise mentor to show the young adventurer the way, from Mr Miyagi to Yoda to Gandalf.
Among the earlier crops of Youngers are many success stories. Nathaniel has co-founded Swim Dem Crew, helping a squad of swimmers conquer a mile swim in open water; another Younger, Kai, went from the training pool to swimming a mile in a few short months. Ash has found in the crew a fantastic opportunity to develop his skills as a photographer. And David has travelled Europe running ultra marathons up mountains and volcanoes.
The latest group of nine women and one good man didn’t know each other a couple of months ago but have been putting in the miles every Tuesday. Their creative project involved working with the people behind Lovebox to learn the skills necessary to plan an event, culminating last night in “Find the Youngers”. The premise was that the Youngers had been kidnapped and were being held in different areas of the Olympic Park. Each of the different Run Dem pace groups was given an envelope containing clues to find the Younger assigned to them, arranged so the faster and stronger groups would have further to travel than others. Each group had to pick up further clues along the way and bring them all back with their younger go the base camp. Each group was in competition with each other in a race against the clock and for prizes.
I’ve heard so much good feedback about this event, and not just from the winning team of the Cheetahs. I’m told that when the Elites poster was spotted there may have been an act of sabotage as it was hung high up on a lamp post. The Olympic Park is an incredible space with so many magical memories ingrained in it already. At dusk, when the children that inhabit the adventure playground by day have gone home, there’s so much fun had every time the crew descend, as the water pumps, balance-boards and rope-walks bring out the inner child in all of us. Running can be hard work but there’s nothing like a focus or game to take your mind off it and make it enjoyable. I’m loving the way we’ve been mixing things up at Run Dem this season with challenges like this or Beat the Bus. Long may we continue to run in unconventional ways on a Tuesday night.
Credit to all the Youngers for putting this great event together, and thanks to Charlie, Ellie, Melanie and Sean who’ve put in so much work supporting them in making this happen. It was a very bold and brave thing to do to even attempt such a large-scale project, mobilising 120 runners in a game across an iconic area. If there were some minor teething problems, we should make light of those and thank the Youngers for introducing a new format for our Tuesday runs to take in the future; one that will be refined and improved with practise. Thank you for daring to dream big.
During housekeeping we were reminded that this weekend Sorrell Walsh, who won the Race to the Stones 100K last year, is taking an incredible group of women to this year’s edition of the race this weekend. They’re helping narrow the gender gap in long distance running and inspiring others with every step. The very best of luck to all of them on what will be a momentous weekend. Here’s to hearing those medal speeches at next week’s housekeeping.