Leandrew Belnavis describes himself as “not your typical runner. I am a larger, big-frame black man. I embrace me being a larger body and an even larger personality.” That personality is ideal for his roles as the Community Manager (or as he describes it, “the camp counselor”) at Tracksmith and as the founder and co-captain of Boston’s Unnamed Run Crew.
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Leandrew’s running journey also is not typical – it began because of a bet. He had two housemates who were amateur athletes, and one, Eric, pitched the Colchester “Tough as Nails” Half Marathon to him. Leandrew had no interest in running that race or anything else, until Eric bet him that he couldn’t do it. “And of course,” he says, “me being me, I was like, ‘all right, cool, you’re on.’”
He started training with the intention of running the race with Eric, “just huffing and puffing, and just like, ‘I hate this; I hate you guys.’ This is awful; why did I do this? Why did I choose this life?” But as he went through the process, he began to enjoy it. Two weeks before the race, Eric announced that he’d never had any intention of running it himself; it was all a plan to get Leandrew to take up running. And, Leandrew says, “I will be forever thankful for that experience.”
He ran the race, and crossed the finish line with “tears streaming down my eyes, experiencing my first runner’s high, and feeling so proud, and ever since that moment, I feel like I’ve been chasing that feeling.” “I think,” he says, “that was the catalyst for trying to get more friends, more folks in my community running, to give them the same experience, to help further their love, and just being active and just doing something that scares you.”
Leandrew wanted to run with other people like himself, but didn’t see many. “I was looking for a tribe; I was looking for people that looked like me. I was looking for people that sounded like me. I was looking for my running community and you know, sometimes when you’re not able to find what you’re looking for, sometimes you have to create it, and thus began my run crew, Unnamed Run Crew.”
Unnamed Run Crew grew exponentially, fueled by Leandrew’s natural talent for rallying people and bringing them towards a common goal. He came to the attention of Tracksmith, and was named their Community Manager a few months ago. “It’s my hope,” he explains, “to create the diversity that I want to see in Boston within Tracksmith.” It was daunting to take on that responsibility, but he’s always up for a challenge. “I’m always in beta; there’s an opportunity for me to learn from an experience and try to lean into discomfort because discomfort is a wonderful teaching tool.”
Running itself, however, is no longer something that he does for the challenge. “I think at one point in time there was something to prove, like, all right, I took on this half marathon challenge. I want to work on my mile; I want to work on my 10K. Now running is more for my mental health; it’s more of a mindful practice. I’m happy being a middle-of-the- pack, back-of-the-pack runner. I’m able to have conversations; I’m able to engage people. I’m able to encourage people. I’m able to stop and clap people in, and that’s fulfilling.”
Leandrew’s goal at Tracksmith is “to create change in the brand in a very impactful and beneficial way for all runners.” And to those who aren’t sure if they belong in the running community, he says, “Can you walk a mile? You belong. You can walk a mile; you can work up to running a mile.”
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Listen to Leandrew kick off Tracksmith’s Boston Marathon shakeout run on this Together Run
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“Thank you” to Leandrew. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.