The Importance of a Support Squad

Why Joining a Run Crew Can Change Your Life

Joining a run crew is one of the simplest (and definitely most fun!) ways of keeping yourself motivated to run with any sort of regular routine. We asked Ryan Chilibeck, the founder of one of Vancouver’s most popular crews, the East Van Run Crew, to share his story and some of the reasons why joining a run crew can actually be a life-changing experience.

The idea to start the East Van Run Crew first came to me from a few different places, but mainly a mixture of boredom, loneliness and my selfish need to hang out with eclectic people with similar interests to mine – that is, beer and running.

Photo Credit: @karriesoo

At the time I was training for my first race (the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon) and was losing motivation to get out and run before or after a long day of work. While I was loving the physical gains from my new hobby, I was craving some company to explore the city with, have a couple of beverages post-run and chat about anything other than work. So, I threw together a logo, an Instagram page and gave my lofty ambition a medium to exist. We started running out of East Vancouver breweries on Monday nights and to my surprise, a few people actually showed up!

Since then, our crew has blossomed into a pretty great mix of genders, ages, educations, hobbies, jobs & backgrounds. Including total newcomers to the sport! I have seen so many go through the same struggles that I faced as a new runner. But they’ve committed to the hurt and come through the other side. To see them reach their goals and become a confident runner… those moments are pretty great to watch.

And it’s not just fitness lives that I’ve seen transformed. Seeing crew members become friends, turn into lovers, and then get married is something I never imagined! Who would have thought that a running group would be a perfect spot to find the love of your life, but we continue to see it happen regularly. I suppose when two people show up to a running group, they already have one thing in common; throw some sweat-induced pheromones and some adult beverages into the equation, and the rest is history.

As for me, outside of being a father, I don’t think anything has shaped my life more than our run crew. I didn’t even start running until about 6 years ago, but since then I have met some of my best friends, found mental balance during some pretty tough times, and travelled to some amazing places. Starting EVRC has even shaped my professional career. Through contacts in the social running community, I found a dream job with Canada Running Series as Western Canadian Race Director. There aren’t many people that get to work every day in a job so perfectly aligned with their biggest passions. I’m a lucky guy.

Photo Credit: @run_photographs

Since we started EVRC, I’ve seen the run crew culture changed so much. But some things remain true if you’re thinking of joining a crew.

First, do your research! Not every run crew shares similar views and rituals. Pick a group that works well into your schedule and is not a burden on your family, work or social life. You have to love being there.

Second, once you find your group, don’t be shy! Try to meet a new person each week. We were all new to the group at one point, so just say “Hey” and you never know what might happen.

And finally, stop worrying about your paces and distances. This one might be specific to certain run crews, but at EVRC, we have everything from the quick to the very casual. As long as you are trying, we will do our best to help you get where you want to go.

If you don’t have a run crew in your town, and you want to start one, my advice would be to start with a solid vision and stick to your plan. Create a safe environment and make sure to be nice to everyone who comes to run with you. If others have fun, they might just come back – and bring a friend!

A question that sometimes gets asked is: Should I join a run crew, or run club? And the truth is, nowadays, I’m not so sure there’s a difference. As long as a group encourages people to be active and be positive members of their community, then you can call yourself a crew, club, gang, posse, squad, team, swarm, troupe, congregation… whatever you want.

Just go out for a run and have some laughs.