Some runners roll out of bed at sunrise and take off down a well-worn path before returning home to drink a power smoothie and then start their day. Others run through questionable neighborhoods at night and then stop at a bar for margaritas afterward. The latter describes an emerging urban running trend, but don’t you dare call them a club, they’re a crew.
While running clubs have been around for years and have chapters in every major US city, running crews are starting to gain in popularity. Larger groups including the New York-based NYC Bridge Runners, Orchard Street Runners and Isla de Corredores, offer people the chance to break away from the norm. The major difference between a running club and a crew has more to do with attitude than time of day. Urban crews tend to be off the beaten path, literally. They race across bridges and cover terrain not typically traveled by the casual runner before winding down at a club or burger dive.
Mike Saes is the founder of one of the earliest crews, the NYC Bridge Runners. In the summer of 2004 he asked a few friends to go on a night run. When those friends asked their friends, suddenly Mike knew he was on to something. “People were drunk, on mushrooms, whatever,” Saes explained to the New York Times. “We’d sweat it out at midnight, then jump in the fountain by the Supreme Court buildings to cool off.”
Crews now use social media channels like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch, announce runs and document their escapades.
— NYC BRIDGERUNNERS (@BRIDGERUNNERS) October 8, 2013
Although these groups are heavy on the social aspect, they’re also serious about getting those miles in. Some crews even organize their own full and half-marathons.
First run w @BRIDGERUNNERS tonight. Great time, nice to get pushed. 18mi on Saturday?
— Danny Cullen (@Dannycullens) August 15, 2013
What used to be considered a subculture of running has now gone mainstream thanks to big budget companies like Nike, who recently launched a campaign for a line of shoes and apparel called, “Flash Forward.” In this YouTube Video, urban runners are featured including members of the NYC Bridgerunners dashing across the Williamsburg Street Bridge.
Saes knows his crew and others like it have critics who worry about the safety of runners and the often non-sanctioned marathons they arrange but he shrugs off the naysayers by responding, “We celebrate organized confusion.”
Photo via NYC Bridgerunners Facebook Page