Spurred by a few visionaries in cities around the globe, it has become a welcoming space for like-minded people and created a culture all of its own.
This is the second in our series of runners’ city guides, brought to you by Jaybird. In this series we speak with some of those visionaries to find out why the best way to tap into the rhythm of a city is on two feet. Here, in their own words, is what it’s like to run in their world.
This time we meet DJ, artist and running crew forefather Charlie Dark, who takes you through the old and new vibrant streets of London.
Run in My World: London
I started running because I wanted to get fit but couldn’t afford a gym. And once I started, everything about me changed: my demeanour, my physical appearance. And I knew I wanted to share this transformation with the London community.
But I never identified with the traditional runner image. And because running, and exercise, really, is so important, especially for young people, I wanted to create a community that welcomes people from all different backgrounds: different socioeconomic classes, races, gender, sizes.
And because of my running and the connections I’ve made through members of Run Dem Crew, I’ve experienced the city of London in a whole new way. I’ve seen a side of this city that no one else has.
I wanted to create a community that welcomes people from all different backgrounds.
I run either really late at night, like midnight or 2 a.m. Or really early in the morning, like 4 a.m. London comes to life at those times—when the rest of city is sleeping. I’m not concerned with distance or time, things I would have worried about at one point in my running career. But now, I’m a more mindful runner. I take in the darkness of the city in those off-hours. I look for that meditative flow when I run, along the river and canals or through the park. That’s not to say I’m a passive runner. I don’t jog. I push the earth down with my feet.
It’s important to be mindful of your surroundings. I am inspired by what I see. And for me, it’s not about what’s going on inside the watch. A lot of runners focus on the speed and the distance, whatever the watch is telling them. And as soon as they see the number, the run becomes a lot harder than it needs to be. Running is about a feeling and to be in tune with the senses.
As a DJ, poet, producer, and founder of Attica Blues, music is very important to me. I often run with music, but not all of the time. Runners should be comfortable with hearing their own breath as a soundtrack, too.
But music can be a training partner. My runs have inspired much of the music I’ve produced. London is a very musical city, and when I’m running at night, when it’s quiet and dark, listening to music while travelling from point A to point B is very exciting.
When runners listen to music, it should have texture, colour. It should inspire.
When I take music on a run and when I’m looking for a musical track to run to, I want something that makes me feel good. Sure, if you pump up the music and make it more energetic you may be able to run harder. But I want music that gives me happy memories, so when I am in a race I’m taking those happy memories with me.
I've designed a playlist in partnership with Jaybird that will take you on a journey. But you don’t have to start at the beginning. You can drop in wherever you want. I want to introduce people to new London-centric sounds, so some of the tracks may be brand new to them. The music reflects every phase of my running adventure, so I can’t choose a favourite song. They each serve a purpose.
When runners listen to music, it should have texture, colour. It should create a space for you to run in. It should inspire.
Run Dem Crew started in a kitchen, at a dining table. So, after a run, we always eat. I’ve never been to a Run Dem Crew session where we don’t eat. Because of where we’re located in London, we eat a lot of Thai and Vietnamese food.
And where the magic happens isn’t necessarily on the run. It’s before a session. It’s after a session, when we’re eating. We make running a part of your life, so it’s as normal as brushing your teeth in the morning.
Through music, running, good food, we bring people together.
We have people in Run Dem Crew who don’t run. But they want to be a part of our community. And that’s what’s so important about having a space for people from all walks of life. And London is a city that has all walks of life, but often, the running community doesn’t reflect that.
Through music, running, good food, we bring people together. People who are different colours, classes, and creed come together to share moments. We celebrate each other, our successes.
Our London group doesn’t conform to the idea that unless you’re running a certain time or distance you’re not a runner. That’s ridiculous. I have so much respect for someone who runs a marathon in seven hours—just as much respect as someone who can run it in two.
Run Dem Crew began as a solely running-focused group but has evolved over the years into a community with many touch points. Our purpose is to inform where running is going, not to replicate what is already happening. We’ve evolved into a crew of movement practitioners with participants from many different disciplines. Mindfulness, Wellbeing and Yoga have been absorbed into our daily practice and we are always looking to see in what ways we can remix running culture.
No Holding Back
Whether you’re getting ready for an event or just pushing yourself to a new PB, training takes commitment. It also takes grit to push through when things get tough, so the last thing you need is gear that holds you back.
Since 2006, runners, hikers and snowboarders have looked to Utah-based group Jaybird to give them uninhibited movement in the golden moments and the gnarly ones, too. They know the benefit of music to push potential, but having a long, loose wire connected to a device was a hindrance.
Created by athletes for athletes, the Jaybird crew wanted to feel as free as possible outdoors and set their goal to create headphones they could forget they were wearing. They created and released the first secure-fitting, sweat-proof wireless earbuds and kept innovating from there.
Working with professional runners helped them design a seamless fit that anyone could tailor to the shape of their ear and wear in complete comfort. They worked on sweat-proofing to ensure their buds could survive high-intensity training, unexpected weather, and even an occasional load in the wash. And then they tackled sound.
The Jaybird App is an immersive experience that you create and use as a personal training tool. With the app, you can customize your EQ levels for any activity, save your sound preset to your buds, and share your preset to help others find the ideal sound too.
Jaybird believes in sharing experiences and has created a 360-degree platform to support you in getting the best out of your buds. The Jaybird App continues to evolve and most recently has incorporated a Find My Buds feature, allowing you to track the last place your buds were connected.
By staying true to their roots in exploration and innovation, Jaybird has assembled an incredible team of athletes and loyal fans. Whether it’s insights found at their Running Performance Lab in Park City, Utah or online feedback from their supporters, they plan to keep innovating and delivering the best wireless sport headphones with a goal to inspire you to get outside with your music and discover your full potential.
Stay tuned for future instalments of Run in My World as Runner’s World and Jaybird explore other global running epicentres and how their communities are evolving the sport.