If you live in London, or are familiar with the global running scene you would probably have heard of Run Dem Crew, a diverse close-nit running family of collective individuals who meet up every Tuesday at Nike 1948 London in Shoreditch to pound the streets of London whilst laying down some serious miles.
I have been following Charlie and his ever friendly running crew via Twitter and Instagram coming up to two years now, and must say it has been amazing to see each of their journey’s unfold, pushing that little bit further with each race they successfully complete.
The man behind Run Dem Crew, Charlie Dark is an inspirational man that has changed the life’s of many crew members for the better in the form of running, taking them on a journey from the sofa to running half marathon distances and beyond.
All crew members speak highly of their friend and leader. The love that is displayed for this man was recently shown in abundance when, upon returning from his trip to Nike HQ in Portland, USA was greeted by his entire class with ‘Charlie Dark Changed My Life’ t-shirts! *crewlove at it’s finest*
I was lucky enough to steal a few hours out of his day so we could catch up on all things Run Dem Crew, whilst asking a few questions that will allow us to briefly get into the mind and thoughts of Charlie Dark.
I started the interview by asking the following question:
What ultimately inspired you to take up running as your preferred method of keeping fit?
The reasons are well documented but the main thing was that it was free and didn’t require the organisation of friends to make it happen. It doesn’t require day light and is a sporting activity can happen at any time of the day or night. I like its simplicity and purity.
What do you do outside of running?
I teach poetry and creative writing in schools around the country, make a large amount of music that only I get to hear and occasionally spin records to make people dance.
Who has been your biggest influence(s) throughout your life?
My Mum for introducing me to the music of James Brown and the principals of hard work, Hip Hop culture for giving me a passport to travel the world and my third year English teacher for introducing me to the concept of the best friend and the weapon. ie the notebook and pen that never leave my side.
What does the word ‘family’ mean to you?
Those individuals who are there for you, no matter the contents of your wallet, theplace you lay your head at night and the clothes on your back.
How would your friends describe you (in two words)?
Creatively driven with a kind heart
If you were running government, what three things would be at the top of your agenda?
The upliftment of the youth from all walks of life.
To take a real look at how sport can be used to enhance young lives.
The sustainability of the planet, improving the life of all citizens who call this place home.
I understand you have previously worked as a youth worker, would you say is it nature, nurture or both that shapes a person?
There is a fine line between both but what I realise after twenty years in the game is that you can not reach everyone but everyone can be reached.
Would you agree that people such as yourself are born leaders and not created?
No, definitely not. I stepped into a void to fill my own needs and found that other people connected with my message. I don’t think that anyone sets out to be a leader; I feel it’s a role that finds you.I don’t consider myself a leader at all but I accept that people find my work inspiring. We should all inspire to be leaders of ourselves.
For those that may not be familiar with the movement, how did the birth of Run Dem Crew come about?
We started with 6 men in a kitchen on a Friday evening running a couple of miles and now have over 200 people who come to our sessions. Run Dem Crew was set up as an alternative to the traditional running club model and as a vehicle to engage and mentor young people in the community. You can check the stories behind the birth of the crew on our TV channel on our Run Dem Crew site
Which five words immediately comes to mind when describing the spirit of Run Dem Crew?
Family, Creativity, Curiosity, Innovation, London
You have run many marathons, half’s and 10ks both nationally and internationally as part of the ‘Bridge the Gap’ series with RDC. If you had to choose, which race has been your most memorable and why?
They all have a special place in my heart for many different reasons butmost memorable would have to be my very first race which was a 5k in Battersea Park and the London marathon which I ran in April 2013. Running past the crew at Mile 21 is a moment that will stay with me for a very long time.
The day after the Virgin London Marathon 2013, you went on what appears to be a life changing trip to Nike HQ in Portland, America, where you had the opportunity to discuss all things regarding ‘sustainability of the planet’ (a topic you are extremely passionate about) with fellow influential people from the world of NASA to The Statement Department to USAID…
For those that may not aware, please describe your role during this trip and what future projects you will be involved in off the back of your visit to Nike HQ Portland? (if any)
I’ve had a relationship with Nike since the late 90’s both as a Musician, DJ and Writer but this was the first time I’ve visited Campus. Without going into too much detail stay tuned to The Nike Better World Facebook page to find out what went down.
Complex subjects need translation into a language that the average man on the street can understand. If you understand the message and why it affects you then you can begin to formulate how you can bring change.
During your trip to Nike HQ in Portland, you had the opportunity to meet and dare I say ‘run with’ Joan Benoit the first Lady to have won the Olympic Women’s Marathon in Atlanta back in 1984.
Describe why this crossing-paths was so special and significant to you?
The First Women’s Olympic Marathon Champion meets boy from East London ….an amazing experience for me and solidified why Run Dem and my own running journey is so important to me. We talked about the future of running and ways to encourage more young people to participate in physical activity. Joan has never run the London Marathon so my mission is to make that happen one day.
For someone like myself who has only been running for six years it was brilliant for her to give me her time and the miles we ran together will stick in the mind for a very long time. The fact that the run was in honour of the memory of those affected by the recent Boston marathon tragedy made it even more important to me. A day never to forget!
What is the reason behind the medal ceremonies you do after races?
It is rare that people take time to celebrate your successes the older you get and I believe that everyone deserves a moment to accept praise for the good they achieve.It allows the crew to come together to celebrate our hard work and inspire those still yet to sign up. Most importantly they allow us to express emotion in a safe and supportive environment.
What advise can you give someone that wants to take up running and what is the key to staying motivated?
The hardest part is getting out of the door. Sign up to a 5k race, download a training plan, make a killer running mix and get out of the door. If you live in an uninspiring area then take the train to a place that inspires you and go for a run there. Join a crew or a club or better still start your own, you are more likely to go for a run if you know other people are waiting for you.
Start slow and build, it’s not a race. Most of all enjoy and remember ‘It’s not how fast you go , it’s how you cross the finish line.
I have yet to experience running with Run Dem on a regular basis as my own Kickboxing schedule currently clashes with the day’s Run Dem meet but should you be interested in joining such an awesome, inspiring bunch of individuals, the next season is currently open for newcomers to join the crew during the month of July 2013.
I shall leave you to watch a music video that captures the spirit and quirkiness of crew members entitled ‘We Run Them’. The video was created by Run Dem Crew member, Actor and Rapper Ed Skrein who can be seen currently gracing our TV Screens in hit TV series ‘The Game of Thrones’ as Daario Naharis.
Danielle is a 1st Dan Kickboxing coach / Assistant Instructor under the PKA Kickboxing Association who is also a health, fitness, green beauty, wellness and lifestyle freelance writer / digital journalist. Her passions include encouraging others to lead an active, health conscious lifestyle whilst leading her Breakin' Boundrez team on various fitness related challenges.