We all love clickbait. Who doesn’t!? It’s so fulfilling, but then again, so not. Clickbait is like a mediocre run/walk club; it gets the job done at the beginning, but you quickly tire of it. Ranging from “the 5 best strength training exercises for runners” to “your top-3 things to buy a runner for Christmas” … and as low as “the 4 things to eat to become a great runner”, or worse, “The 10 steps to go from your couch to Marathon in 6 weeks” – we all know that last one.
Clickbait alert – I love community
I know right; it’s a very trendy thing to say nowadays, especially when coupled to dope influencer-speech such as “call to action”, “family”, “crew”, “inspiration”, and a dozen edgy hashtags. But fuck do I love influencers. I’ll admit it. Even if I know that more often than not, we get prosaic platitudes instead of real inspiration from endless IG story feeds. I’m clearly not an influencer, but this will be my attempt at a clickbait piece about community and how to build it. Fuck it, here goes nothing.
For starters that title was total clickbait. However, since I don’t have the skills required to go full-on top 10, I will simply provide some thoughts, some real-proven-experiential-science stuff on community building and some truth and considerations I’ve learnt through my own community. Consider this “real-proven-science” more as “not-so-serious-ramblings” mulled over after a couple beers. What I will provide below are three keys I’ve discovered through my short experience as a run captain with Yamajo (@werunmtl), in now glacial Montreal, Canada.
Train hard. Together.
Hundred-meter strides are tough. 400m sprints are bad. 10k tempos are evil. 30k Fartleks. Let’s not get there. Warm summer mornings, and frigid cold winter nights, it is never easy to get out there. That is unless the Fam shows up to run. Unless the Fam shows up on those sweaty mornings to do stairs or on cold late nights on Sundays for long runs. Unless the Fam shows up when you set crazy goals together. Unless the Fam shows up when you have reached the depths of the pain cave, figuratively or not. Unless the Fam shows up. If the Fam shows up, the hard becomes easy, the impossible becomes… okay enough with the banality.
The Fam showed up in a big way recently. We signed up for the Speed Project 5.0. That chill 340 miles (550k) stroll through Cali and Nevada, from Santa Monica to Vegas. Yeah, quite a few of us have never even ran a marathon. Stupid? Maybe. But hey, whatever, we stand and run together. Taking that first step out of the door is always the most difficult step. Being accountable to your crew helps and making sure others in your crew are accountable shows them you care. How do you eat an elephant again? One tempo run at a time? No that’s not it. Wait I’m vegan, I need better metaphors.
Just train hard. Sharing sweat, both in a figurative sense and a quite literal one, brings people closer. Seriously though, that wet hug, you will remember it. It keeps us together.
Chill hard. Together
Seriously, I can’t emphasize this enough; Rest. Training hard together takes its toll on your body, and your mind. That means chilling and resting hard together is just as important. It soothes the soul. It helps in so many ways. We all have rough patches, both in training and in life. When I met the crew, I was quite low, and it wasn’t easy at the beginning. I was a little apprehensive (understatement), and awkward (again). Chilling with the crew allowed me to take a rest, to not be on the defensive all the time.
I remember it took our crew member Kay months to open up. At the beginning, she showed up, headphones on, listening to her music and hardly saying a word. We respected that. Now she is one of the people you will remember the most from the crew. Her presence, her energy, and because now she cares. I don’t know how the crew helped her, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to claim that we did, in both body and mind. Your body and soul are all you have. Treat them well. Treat your community the same. Rest, and do it with them, it feels good.
In these pictures you’ll see my recipe for a 100% successful chill-hard session; Vegan focaccia pizzas and toasted cauliflowers, share a few beers, I prefer them hoppy like our attitude. Remember to eat as as good as you run. I know we do, Joe especially. Only his selfie and running-ahead-in-a-group-thing skills are better. “Treat your body as a temple” is a platitude. How about, “eat well, drink well, with others”. In the end, most runners have nothing on their mind during a long run other than the meal they’ll be having right after.
Just please recognize that you have to chill hard, to become a crew. You also have to be willing to let others into your chilling space. You’ll be thankful you did.
Embrace your community.
Number 3 is about respect. I said it. Tropes on tropes. But hey I warned you, clickbait.
Take a look at a tight knit run crew’s Instagram and you might feel as though it’s less about the running and more about the shameless self-promotion. Hoping you can get enough followers to catch the attention of brands in the hopes of getting ahead. However, what we do is more than marketing. It’s way more than selfies, stories and pictures. We cultivate networks, and create relationships with companies, yes, but more importantly, we connect and cultivate relationships with people. Respect is the bottom line here. Communities are built on respect. You think we are insane enough to hit the Speed Project because we are getting free shoes and a couple pair of shorts and hats? Hell no! We are doing this for Yamajo, for the Burgz (Little Burgundy, our hood), for Montreal, and for everyone who has supported us, believed in us, and gave us high-fives on the way. Remembering this is both about self-respect and showing respect to our community.
When building new relationships within your community, ask yourself, what it is built on? Ask yourself is this working towards you crew’s goals and is making your community greater in the process? You are more, and the community is more. Again, respect yourself and respect your community.
Running and by extension, life (since running is just a micro-experiment in life), cannot be reducible to repping a shoe or nutrition brand. The same way you are much more than an advertising billboard. Or at least, I hope you are.
Embrace your potential role in the community. Support your local microbrewery with your crew after a Sunday long trail run. Support the yoga studio across the street on recovery Monday, even if it’s not the most hip around. Start a book club with the crew, and invite kids from the hood. Your community goes beyond your crew; it’s all those people, spaces, start-ups that can help you along the way. They are part of what your crew is. Find those people and those brands out there that respect you, and whom you respect. Elevate them, and yourselves in the process, and build something from respect and authenticity.
At the Speed Project, we will all be superstars, at least in ours and our community’s mind. We will have to share parts of the burden of this run, and the only way for us to get through it will be to stand together, as a crew. Neither Nema or myself can run in plain sunlight, but hey, Youssef loves it! I love hills, but Youss hates them. Joe has amazing acceleration and eating skills. Marge has a strong mental game, and she has her crew-support game is tight. There is something in each and everyone of us, but as Yamajo, when we run as a pack, it is way more than the sum of our individual strengths. A community is the same. Back home, we will have our community behind us; whether it’s the Fam at Ciele, the guys from 4 Origines, whose beers I will be conceitedly chugging after my segments in the desert, our friends and family at B52 and Blackout, the dope vegan wieners from Gusta, Spencer’s Joe-killing hot sauce. These have all become key parts of our Yamajo community.
They have shown up for us, we will show up for them. We show up for others. The claps and cheers, the high-fives and the texts from home will overcome all the pain and suffering that The Speed Project will throw at us. This support network wasn’t built overnight. It was cultivated together. Don’t just drop the word “community”, do it, build it, live it. Feel it in your sore, busted muscles after track. Feel it shivering at the core of your bones on the Sunday long run. It humbles you from that flipped brim down to your shoelaces. And it makes you faithful. When you do that, community overpowers your very soul, and trashes all the ego we all cultivate on our proto-influencer clickbait Instagram feeds.
There’s no secret to this, to building a community. It’s standing together. Charlie Dark says we don’t run, we push earth down with feet. I like that, but then again, it’s more. Push earth down with our feet, together. Push the earth down and reach up to the fucking stars! Oh god there it is again. Cliché.
This is who we are. If you’re ever around, come out and join us. Wednesday nights 7 PM, Saturday mornings 10 AM, Little Burgundy Sport Centre, Montreal. The only truth I live when it comes to running is my crew, Yamajo. Enough said. Everybody Run. Cours tabarnak!