Much Ado About the Run Crew

I’ve been contemplating the demise of my running community.

I don’t want to be overly dramatic about these things, but our corporate benefactor unceremoniously dumped us. Well, to be precise, the corporate-run running shoppe where many of us first met and trained, and which continues to act as a bit of a membership feeder for our ragtag group, has opted to put a timeline on their continued presence at their current location.

Leases. Markets. Profits. Blah, blah, blah. I can rationally respect the business decision, but it does sting a little bit that they have given virtually zero acknowledgement that our little “run club” collective is bigger than the store, and it has been for the better part of a decade. That they bring people, but we keep them coming. That they create an incentive, but we build a team and provide support. That they provide a location, but we provide a community.

Of course, some –many– folks will follow to the new location. New runners will be lured by the call of a brand new store opening. Yet for some, especially we who have put sweat and tears into building the little crew that has united us in a worldwide pursuit of achieving race goals, it has not gone unspoken that there must be something we can do to keep the group afloat, particularly how and where we are now, besides just dutifully following the store to the suburban strip-mall where corporate headquarters has deemed we now must run from and hoping things stay gelled in the same way.

Technology is only part of the answer, and maybe not the best one, but it is an answer I can throw a few handfuls of effort towards. So, last night I registered and then did my website magic wherein I laid the foundations for:

www.coffeecrew.ca

First and foremost, a searchable “hey, look at us… we’re running here” spot on the web where someone searching for “runners in edmonton” or “edmonton run clubs” might stumble across us and ask for a WTFisUp referral to some local running and race training.

Second, and because I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate Facebook, a social community that is outside of all the little chat and network apps that are creating a scattered collection of people who are struggling to communicate and plan effectively. That’s the tough slog: I get that. Another website, another group, another thing to join, but even if that part flops, the website and a few modest posts about our training might be enough to bring the 5 or more new members each year to keep us a viable group.

If nothing else, it was 12 bucks for a domain and I can hand out some email addresses if people want them.

If you are more than just a lurker, head over to www.coffeecrew.ca and sign up with an account. Set up a profile. Say something. Participate. Don’t take these fragile communities for granted.

The Music of Success

Over the weekend my running life slapped me in the face with a sweaty sock. Reality. Business. Life. Fate. The universe.

Biggest of these, but the news I will spend the least time on out of respect, is that a friend and former training parter passed away after a multi-year struggle with cancer. She was a ferociously determined half-marathoner who almost always brought her dogs along on long runs and trained with an infectious smile. We all hoped for a better outcome, obviously, and there will be grief and honour and memories to be shared sometime soon.

The lesser, but devistating in it’s own way, news (just a day later) was that the running store that has been the central beacon of our run club (quietly, unofficially, secretly because the manager also gave notice and doesn’t care about corporate secrets anymore) announced that they are moving precisely 3.1 klicks (I routinely wear a GPS on my wrist) from their current location, sometime in the spring.

Rumours. But credible.

The two are linked temporally, but there is another bridging theme to be noted: people who are, have been, will always be the heart of our training success can’t be taken for granted. They quit. They get injured. They don’t get into lottery races at the same times as you. They move. They are moved. They burn out. They slip and break a bone. They lose their meeting place. They buy a treadmill. They have a baby. They get sick. They die.

People change. Just keep running, right?

Having run through the local neighbourhood for twelve years, I’ve lost track of the hundreds of routes and trails. I’ve lost track of many of the people, too. I’ve run new routes with new people who never came back to run again. I’ve run familiar routes with friends who have been by my side for the better part of a decade. Millions of steps, tens of thousands of klicks, thousands of hours, countless conversations, hundreds of people, and a handful of friends. I’ve trained my body and simultaneously created this weird network of people, friends, cohorts, professional bridges, (probably) enemies and rivals, followers, mentors, and ersatz coaches. And every race, every new challenge, would have been exponentially more difficult alone. So I’ve dutifully helped to hold that group together through participation, planning, and sheer force of will.

I bumble through this kind of navel-gazing friendship philosophizing because when life hits you this way, and you suddenly stand in a place where you can choose to be stubborn, yell and scream at the corporation who despite your years of support abstractly decided to pull the rug out from under your snow-covered sneakers and abandon over a decade of not-their-work to build a club — or you can just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Because it’s a decision I need to face down myself soon, and it bums me out.

People change. Just keep running, right?