As Third Space prepares itself for its first ever site-to-site run with urban running community Run Dem Crew, we chat to founder Charlie Dark about pounding the streets of London in the wee, small hours.
Q: How did you get into running?
A: I was 35, teaching poetry and creative writing at a school in East London, and I needed to do something about my body. The lifestyle from my younger years as a DJ was beginning to catch up with me. So I started running. I went very late at night and I just fell in love with it.
Q: Why go in the middle of the night?
A: Originally it was because I was embarrassed to do it during the day, but I soon discovered it was the best time to go. The roads are less congested and if you go very late you get to see the city waking up. London is completely different when there’s no-one around.
Q: How did this lead to the creation of Run Dem Crew?
A: People started to notice I was leaner and more energetic. They asked if they could join me. I agreed because at the time my friends were quite fragmented. The music community I had been part of was changing, DJs were spending much more time abroad or making music in their own homes. I realised that running could bring us all together again.
Q: What happened next?
A: It started off as just me and a bunch of friends running once a week through London, but it grew very quickly. I realised that I could help the young people I was teaching to stay out of trouble and get fit. I got them to come along. I encouraged as many different people as possible to join us, regardless of age or background. I wanted to create a community of runners, from all walks of life, who were also creative and who could ultimately help each other out. And so Run Dem Crew was born.
Q: How is it different to a running club?
A: I have always found running clubs quite intimidating. They cater for people who are already quite advanced. Run Dem Crew is open to everyone, from elite runners to complete beginners. We continue to work with young people across London, giving them advice and the opportunity to explore areas of the city they normally wouldn’t go to in the safety of a large, supportive, friendly group. We also organise workshops, films and events that celebrate urban environments and culture.
Q: What does running culture mean to you?
A: I often compare it to music. If you look at the people who go to Glastonbury, they are all different. Young and old, CEOs and unemployed, the one thing that unites them is the music. It’s the same with running: anyone can do it. All you need is a pair of trainers. There is something quite poetic about it, it’s such a basic primal movement. We run away from danger, we run towards the people we love, we run for survival.