There will be days in life when you meet a person who will change your perspective of things; it’s these people who are going against the grain and challenging the status quo. Charlie Dark is one of these people, and then some. Learning all about his passion for running managed to ignite something inside me to pick up my trainers and hit the road for a post-work run. Usually I am a lunchtime mover, but the feeling of getting home after a hard days work and chilling on the couch didn’t cut it today. I wanted to run off Monday, feel the fresh air and breathe big, deep breaths while everyone else settled in for the night. Charlie was right, running let’s you know you are alive.
You see, I’ve meet runners before; you know the ones who literally eat, sleep and breathe running. They live for times and distances and mapping routes that challenge them. Charlie is a runner through and through, but what he is doing for the sport is inspiring to say the least. Founding Run Dem Crew [RDC] in the winter of 2007, it’s safe to say that RDC isn’t your “run of the mill” run club. Founded on the basis of creating a space for likeminded individuals to meet for a casual run around the neighbourhood each week, RDC has since grown into a global movement that is more than just running.
To learn just how RDC isn’t a run club, we took 5 with the man himself to understand just how he has set himself the mission of getting more and more people hitting the streets, and making peace with their running shoes…
This seems like a pretty rad story… Tell us, how does a DJ, Poet and Writer come to find himself leading a running crew?
The story is well documented but I started running from a need to get in shape for a one man show I had been commissioned to write about my musical career. The love of running at night came from sheer embarrassment at being seen in the day time in lycra. I feel in love with the culture of running and wanted share it with my musical community but I knew it would need a remix to entice the people I wanted to reach. We started with five friends and nine years later it’s a global movement.
And on that note, you say you’re not a run club and you don’t jog… what makes DCM different?
In my experience of Run Clubs the focus is primarily on the running whereas with crews I feel we are more focused on building communities with running as a common thread. Saying that, there are some very talented athletes emerging from the movement who are posting some serious times and it’s going to be interesting to see where the top end of the movement goes to next. Many of the people who come through our doors would never run with a running club and I feel there is space for both sides of the coin. Ultimately clubs and crews are both encouraging people to get moving, one team wear vests, the other team wear t-shirts but the distance is still the same.
I read this quote from you online – “I do not run, I push the earth down with my feet & leave my footprints in the concrete behind me” – that’s some pretty poetic stuff. You clearly eat, sleep and breathe RDC… do you think everyone can learn to love running as much as you?
Running completely changed my life around not only physically and mentally but also in the way I view myself as a man. Running can teach you some very important lessons about yourself if you open your mind and it’s a feeling I want to share with as many people as possible. It’s easy to fall in love with running if you stop focussing on time and distance and give into the feeling of celebration. Every step should be a celebration of how far you have come since you first put on your shoes and go out that very first time. It’s a different way of thinking but after nine years of Run Dem I think it might be working.
Tell us more about RDC’s commitment to helping younger generations through mentorship and a supportive, active environment?
An hour of a mentors time is more valuable than money if you don’t know how to invest it to make more money. Empowering young people with positive experiences and knowledge is our way of investing in the next generation after all they will be the people making decisions on our behalf when we are older. For the last nine years we have run projects with young people across the capital taking them from sofa to finish line of a running distance as well as helping them achieve their creative dreams. This year we’ve seen a group go from kids sitting on the wall with nothing to do to completing triathlons, marathons and qualifying as swimming instructors. It’s a beautifully rewarding feeling when you help someone discover potential they thought they never had. If you do well then I do well, and so the crew love continues to spread.
What do you feel is today’s biggest misconception about running, and why do you think there this fear of it? I know a lot of my girlfriends hate the thought of running. The moment they hear “run” it’s like they instantly can’t…
Running is ruined for many people once they hit the school system because it’s rare that a connection is made between physical exercise and the mental benefits in the classroom. It’s often seen as a punishment and people find something that should be simple very frustrating. We run for love, run for survival and run away from danger. It’s a basic primal movement that scares people because we’ve been sold this idea that everyone runs the same and there is only one way of running. If we focus on movement and the mental joys and benefits it can bring we might encourage more people to participate.
Best advice for that couch to 5KM mentality – if you aren’t a runner what is the best way to start?
I have this theory that running should be celebration not a test, so I advise every beginner to take things slow at first and to forget about distance. Following a Walk Run program is a good way to start and not being a slave to the training plan. When you first start out you are just trying to fall in love with running but its an addiction that’s hard to kick.
Do you ever run during day light, or only under the cover of darkness?
I like to run at odd hours when the city is either asleep or just waking up but time doesn’t always allow me that luxury so day light has become my friend.
Where to from here… the future looks pretty bright for RDC?
Things are going well but it’s definitely time to begin branching into new avenues. We have a Swimming Crew which is popping off nicely and next up we are going to focus on bikes and building a community around cycling especially for people who don’t know how to ride or have never branded outside the capital.
Ok, lastly, we are going to end of a fashion question. Your go-to running outfit? What’s Charlie Dark’s fave styles to run in…
I like my branding subtle but I’m not afraid of colour. Definitely function over form, the outfit is not complete if it doesn’t function. I’m yet to find my ultimate apparel brand but I like what Lululemon are doing and some of the smaller brands such as Ice Cold NYC. I don’t want to look like a billboard when I’m out running especially with the adventures we have planned ahead.
If this isn’t proving that running is so much more than times and distance, I don’t know what is. RUN DEM CREW offers a range of memberships for their runs across London and have an “anybody is welcome” policy… as long as you respect the project. To learn more about RDC, visit their website here, or keep your eye on their Facebook page for updates.