We Run 313’s motto is “Connect. Run. Build.” Lance Woods and Joe Robinson founded the social run club to connect “like-minded individuals through running to build a healthier and happier community.” That community is Detroit, which is where the “313” comes from – it’s the Motor City’s area code. We Run 313 has become Detroit’s largest run club in just three years, not only in-person, but also on Strava, where it has 2190 members.
Joe and Lance are both competitive runners, but the runs that We Run 313 hosts aren’t about competition. As Lance explains, “we’re for runners of all levels, all ages, all races, all paces, whatever the case may be. We’re a community-based organization that helps people to keep moving and to stay active.”
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Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is hard in Detroit. Joe describes it as “fast food everywhere, liquor stores everywhere, on every corner. People want to be better in Detroit. They just don’t always have the means and means are not always financial. You know what I mean? Means is the food, means is you might not feel comfortable running past the abandoned houses on your street.”
Another hurdle is that exercise isn’t part of the culture in Detroit. “It’s just hard to see yourself doing something that you don’t see many people that look like you doing it,” Lance says. “The only time I would see Black people running was if they were running from something. The only time I’ve seen Black people riding a bike is if that was their mode of transportation. We kind of wanted to crack the code with that and bring more people into the sport of it because it’s just a beautiful thing.”
Lance had cracked that code in 2015 when his best friend started “Sweaty September” to encourage people to revisit their New Year’s fitness goals. He agreed to help promote it, and since running was something that he had never done before, “I jumped out there and started running and I tried to do a mile. Sucked at it; I didn’t know how to pace, didn’t know how to breathe, didn’t have proper running shoes, none of those things, but I was helping out a friend, so I wanted to get my mile done.” He got it done and kept running every other day that month, but when cold weather set in, his running dropped off.
It wasn’t until 2017, he recalls, that “I kind of stayed more consistent and I was able to do my first 5k, my first 10k, my first half marathon, and once I started getting into the racing aspect of it and collecting medals, that’s when everything changed for me.” That year was the first time that he experienced a runner’s high and “I was like, man, this is something I’m gonna continue to do for the rest of my life.”
Joe made his first attempt at running on a trip to Los Angeles in 2015. The beautiful weather and scenery was so motivating, he says, that “I’m like, man, I gotta do something with the way I feel. So I just went down to Venice Beach along the boardwalk and I just ran really fast, like sprinting real fast, and I just kind of passed out and I was like, ‘I’m not doing this.’” The next year though, he decided to try to run a mile. “I always yearned to be the best version of myself,” he explains. “I’ve always thought about what can I do to be a better version of myself; What can I do? Can I educate myself? Can I eat better, can I be more fit, can I dress better?” Running a mile seemed like a way to improve himself, so he struggled through it, but he didn’t really commit to running until one day in 2017 when he ran two miles.
He started sweating profusely and “so I was telling myself, like man, I feel like I’m sweating out toxins or sweating out something. I feel like I’m getting rid of stuff that’s been inside of me for a long time just by sweat. And also I started to feel better about myself because I was now doing a thing that I thought I could never do, which is run two miles straight, so I started to develop this high self esteem. And it just felt great and since 2017 I’ve been on it ever since.”
Joe and Lance’s mission with We Run 313 is to bring the benefits that they’ve found through running to others. They’ve been hugely successful, but although they acknowledge the hard work that they put into the club, they don’t take credit personally. “I don’t want to get too deep into belief systems and things like that,” Joe says, “but I would just say this: I think when you are doing what’s right in your life, and when you’re living the right way, and when you have an honest intention about what you want for people and what you want to do for people,things like that happen.”
Lance agrees. “I think that we understand that we are in service of the people and that’s just what we focus on, you know, like I don’t think we really focus too much on the numbers. It’s just about impacting one person at a time and you know, when you take that approach, it just sprinkles onto other people. I just want to do the work as long as I can; that’s it.”
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“Thank you” to Joe and Lance. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.