Cheering on others as they pursue their goals means more to Lorna Mann than her own accomplishments. It’s a mindset that she attributes to the encouragement of Charlie Dark and the Run Dem Crew. Now she mentors others, helping them to discover their full potential.

Listen to the Running for Real podcast here:

Apple (iTunes) Podcast | Sticher | Castbox | Overcast | Spotify | Google Play | iHeartradio |

Lorna grew up in a small, tight-knit family. “Having parents that loved, supported and wanted to have memories together gave me a real sense of myself,” she says. She also had a circle of female friends, but didn’t always feel as though she belonged. “I did struggle with friendships with women growing up, as well. So as I grew into myself and as a teenager, I kind of became a bit more of a solo adventurer. Not making plans at weekends, not being a part of team sports, and not for any other reason than that’s where I felt I belonged, which was not there, if that makes sense.”

That independent spirit led to her leaving home at 17 and becoming the head of publicity at a major film studio. She’d never been a runner, but one year, at the office Christmas party, the studio CEO challenged her to run a marathon. With the incentive of a very expensive pair of shoes as her reward if she did it, she took him up on his offer.

By August, she still hadn’t started running. One morning on the way to work, she felt terrible. “I have this glamorous day, but feeling horrible in my body, just tired, ruined from the week at work, not really looking forward to the day ahead of me, yet it would be what people would pay millions to do as their job.”

She walked past a gym and abruptly went inside. “I went, ‘I’m running the marathon next year and I need a personal trainer to get me in shape.’ I didn’t have a marathon spot. I didn’t have the trainers. I didn’t even have the kit. And they went, ‘Okay, you’ll meet with this person on Tuesday; we’ll see you then. Pay for your membership, off you go.’ And that was the start of that journey. That’s when I started doing it for myself. Yes, this competition with my boss that I couldn’t have him win was the catalyst, but it took that long for me to realize that this body and this mind space deserved a lot more. So that was the start of the change of my life, thanks to running.”

She started training and secured a charity bib for the 2013 London Marathon. But, she says, “I very much was one of those runners that didn’t identify as a runner and didn’t feel like she belonged at all. I ran every training mile on my own. I didn’t want anyone really to be a part of this journey because I felt too slow, because I didn’t feel comfortable in the space. I had the motivation to get up and do it, but I was definitely, ‘This is my practice.’ And I wasn’t willing to let anyone in, a bit like that girl at school.” 

Instead she leaned on social media for inspiration and started following Charlie Dark and the Run Dem Crew. “I just lived running culture through the eyes of what was being shared on Twitter and thought, ‘This is cool and I can pretend I belong because no one knows I exist.’”  When she ran the marathon,the Run Dem Crew was cheering at mile 21, and as Lorna ran by, she raised her hands, as if she were part of the crew. They went wild for her. “I do not know where this confidence came from,” she observes. “They must have, as soon as I whizzed past, gone, ‘Who was that?’ Because I knew no one, but something said, ‘Run through this as if it’s where you belong,’ and I did.”

A year later, she decided that it was time to truly belong, and she  started going to Run Dem’s Tuesday meetups. At the start of each meet, Charlie Dark would host “housekeeping,” celebrating members who had run a race that week and giving support to those who needed it. “And then they’d go out on their runs and I’d go home,” Lorna says. “I wouldn’t run. I just would slide off into the background. I was dressed to run, but I slid off. I was like, ‘I still don’t feel like I should run here.’ No one made me feel unwelcome. In fact, I felt so welcome, but I came and stayed because of that vibe of cheerleading and support.” 

That’s where Lorna developed her love of celebrating other runners. “It doesn’t matter what your job title is, or your postcode, or your background, or your future. You show up because you’re united by this love of moving left or right foot.” She also discovered that the best way to feel genuinely supportive of someone is by learning their “why” for running. That makes it possible to support even people that you might otherwise envy.

“I will never run a four minute mile, but I will celebrate the four minute miler, if I understand their ‘why.’ Or the 12 minute miler, or the 15 minute miler, or the 20 hour miler, I don’t care. But what I really care about is why they’re doing it and how are they gonna feel at the end of it. Whatever the ‘why’ is will connect you. So take away the feelings of, ‘I’ll never get there’ or ‘I will never be in that place or have what that person has.’ I can connect to their ‘why’ that they wanna do it because they wanna grow; because they’ve had some sort of setback: physical, mental, emotional, whatever that might be. You can actually connect to that element of whatever it is they’re going through and I guarantee you,it will take out any level of jealousy.”

Lorna herself was the recipient of a truly extraordinary act of support at the 2016 New York City Marathon. She hadn’t trained adequately, and by mile 21, she was really struggling. Charlie Dark was there, with members of some of the local run crews. “I cried my eyes out,” Lorna recalls. “I was like, ‘I just don’t know if I can do this.’ And Charlie said, ‘It’s fine. You can do this. You’ve done it before and you belong here and you belong with us. What do you need?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t need anything. Leave me be, leave me be.’ I was just down on the world and down on myself.

“Charlie took me by my hand and he said, ‘We’ll just run a mile together.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t wanna run. I wanna do this, but I don’t wanna run.’ But I am hand-in-hand with someone that is more than a best friend to me. And we ran a mile and we got to mile 22. I said, ‘Charlie, go back to your people, go back to your place. You are celebrating everyone that’s coming through and I’m taking up this space. I don’t want to ruin your day. My day’s ruined; I don’t wanna ruin your day. But I love you for carrying me through. Off you go.’ And so he let go of my hand, turned his back on me. I was like, ‘Finally, I can walk again.’”

As she slowly made her way to the finish, “The crowds were going, it was getting dark, and it is the most demoralizing feeling when you start seeing the crowds disperse. Every cheer I had in my head, and this brand would be here, and this group would be there, all gone. It was silence. I was just miserable; it was the worst. I’m so grateful for the experience, but I really didn’t feel good in that moment. 

“I phoned Charlie when I crossed the finish line and I said, ‘Charlie, my friend, I’m done,’ and he went, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Look behind you.’ And he was behind me. He had followed me through all of those miles because he was worried, but he also just knew that I needed a guardian angel. He said that I had been that person for him, and it was his moment to say, “Hey, I’ve got you.’ He said, ‘Every time you looked back and every time you started to walk, I was like, ‘I’ve got to get out of the way, in case she looks again,’ but he followed me every step of the way. And that’s what Charlie does for the world.”

It’s what Lorna does for the world too.


Lorna’s Instagram

Lorna’s website

Thank you to Tracksmith, AG1, and Precision Fuel & Hydration for sponsoring this episode.

Tracksmith is an independent running brand inspired by a deep love of the sport. For years the brand has elevated running wear using best-in-class materials and timeless silhouettes that perform at the highest level and can be worn everyday, not just for running. 

Tracksmith helps the environment by making comfortable, durable clothes that will last for years, rather than winding up in the landfill. They help athletes who are trying to make the Olympic trials, and they offer scholarships for creatives to work on their crafts. 

If you’re a new customer, go here and use the code TINANEW at checkout to get $15 off your order of $75 or more. Returning customers can use the code TINAGIVE, and Tracksmith will give you free shipping and donate 5% of your order to TrackGirlz.

AG1 is the daily Foundational Nutrition supplement that delivers comprehensive nutrients to support whole-body health. 

With its science-driven formulation of vitamins, probiotics, and whole-food sourced nutrients, AG1 replaces your multivitamin, probiotic, and more in one simple, drinkable habit. And just as importantly, it actually tastes good!

If a comprehensive solution is what you need from your supplemental routine, go here and get a FREE 1-year supply of Vitamin D AND five free AG1 Travel Packs with your first order!

Precision Fuel & Hydration helps athletes crush their fueling and hydration so they can perform at their best. Tina used their electrolytes and fuel when she finished first female and third overall at the Bryce Canyon 50 Miler. You can use their free Fuel & Hydration planner to understand how much carb, fluid, and sodium you need for your key runs. 

If you have more questions, Precision offers free video consultations. Their Athlete Support crew will answer your race nutrition questions and act as a sounding board for your fueling strategy. No hard-sell, just an experienced and friendly human who knows the science and is full of practical advice on how to nail your race nutrition. You can book a call here.

Once you know what you need to run your best, you can go here to get 15% off their range of multi-strength electrolytes and fuel.

Thanks for listening!

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe on Apple, Spotify, iHeart, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you enjoy Running for Real, please leave us a review!

Keep up with what’s going on at Running for Real by signing up for our weekly newsletter. 

Join the newsletter

This is not your usual email newsletter. With Tina’s personal reflections and recommendations, suggestions of things to do, thoughts to contemplate, and some updates, this newsletter is one that you’ll WANT to read, not hit “delete” as soon as you see it.

Powered by ConvertKit

Follow Tina on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You’ll find Running for Real on Instagram too!

Want to be a member of the Running for Real community? Join #Running4Real Superstars on Facebook! 

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for additional content, including our RED-S: Realize. Reflect. Recover series of 50+ videos.

Thank you for your support – we appreciate each and every one of you!

inclusion, run club, run crew

Related Posts