Night time has always held a certain allure; robbers and ravers may dominate the city after hours, but now educated runners are turning to the dark side.
Down a little side street in Shoreditch après dusk running club Run Dem Crew has been growing in popularity over the past year. Heavy workloads, lengthening daylight hours and a shift away from expensive gym memberships all point to why savvy women are turning into creatures of the night.
A fitness regime is one more thing to fit into a busy schedule. If you’re not willing to commit to pricey gym membership then you’re left with running before or after work on the streets, which can be both unsafe and unappealing. Which is why running – at night, is having something of a renaissance.
According to the English Sports Council there has been a 38% increase in female runners aged 18-35 from 2007 – 2009 (the results have yet to be updated for 2010). From gentle jogs around the park to more serious 10k runs, the appeal of running is on the up. From a calorie point of view, running burns 50% more per mile than walking, increases muscle and heart stamina while toning legs, bums and arms.
Running takes exercise back to basics. You can run anywhere and after the initial payout for good trainers and an effective sports bra, it is effectively FREE – in short it’s a fitness no-brainer. However, being a largely individual sport, many people are put off opting to take classes like aerobics where there is safety in numbers, camaraderie and a sense of community.
Running alone, it’s easy to feel exposed, to give up when you’re feeling tired or to feel under confident trying new routes – which is why running clubs offer the perfect community atmosphere to nurture burgeoning talent in a supportive wallet-friendly and safe environment.
Little over a year ago I could barely run 3k without internally weeping, feet buckling and chest tightening. No way hose did I want to run with others and expose my lack of ability but similarly neither did I enjoy running solo around the streets of london avoiding beeps from bored Fiesta drivers, only to stop after 20 mins having convinced myself I was about to have an asthma attack. Which brings me back to Run Dem Crew.
Run Dem Crew is a weekly running club that heads out from Nike’s 1948 space on Batesman Row, EC2A every Tuesday evening at 7.30pm. A clan of runners aged 19 to 40 to meet, greet and train. DJs, MCs and television presenters limber up next to school kids against the ever changing backdrop of 1948’s warehouse walls. Headed up by Charlie Dark creative entrepeneur, DJ and wordsmith, who started the club with just three people in his own living room, he is now group leader extraordinaire, all energetic limbs, loose tongue and cocaine-like group leader qualities. Mr Dark personally introduces himself to all new members, gets everyone chatting and splits up the mass into 4 groups depending on ability so there is something to cater for speedy marathon runners through to first timers. Honestly.
Each group is assigned an informal group leader, someone to jolly their ‘team’ along and to make sure noone gets lost or left out. The cool air of evening will soon be a blessing (Spring has sprung no?) and the emptying streets are an ideal adults’ playground. Routes streak down canal paths to Victoria Park, across Tower and Millenium Bridge, zip to the Olympic Stadium, pop out under Big Ben race through overland stations and under the Barbican tunnel.
Sneaking around the city with Run Dem Crew is empowering – just as post work drinkers settle in for another cigarette, Run Dem Crew swoosh past, lungs full of clear night air. Smug doesn’t cut it. Even hooded teens lurking in canal crevices give a little nod of respect as 20 plus runners puff past. Running alone I used to feel vulnerable, but among the swarm there is a feeling of safety and freedom; canal paths, alleyways and parks become a limitless running track.
The adrenaline of conquering an empty street, squeezing between a parked car, racing across an iconic bridge or leaping through a tube station keeps energy levels stoked. The group atmosphere drives you on and stopping isn’t an option. Running over Waterloo Bridge, the magical lights along the North and Southbank saluting you – it’s impossible not to fall in love with London all over again.
Run Dem Crew is such a simple formula: People. Come together. Make friends. Run. Perhaps it works so well because it reflects the simplicity of running itself. When you cloud a club with formalities, exchanging of money, branded tops and entry requirements you overshadow the purity of the sport. Running is the hardest thing to start but the easiest thing to get good at. If you don’t believe me, try Run Dem Crew. Forget clubbing after dark – running is the new rave.
Daisy will be posting interesting routes and news from the church of Run Dem Crew every so often. Because when you find something good that really works it only seems fair to share.