Urban Culture. I’m oblivious to it. I’ve always lived in villages, socialised little outside of school and in my professional life, some 10 years on. Kendal Mountain Festival is probably the most social I am all year, bar races. And with that, cultures and counter cultures slip under my radar. The only exposure I have is the occasional blip on youtube or social media and as you can imagine, that’s minimal due the algorithms determining what I see, based on previous interactions. Generally speaking, its running, mountain bikes, bike packing, podcasts and content creators…
Yet, it was this very reason that drew me to ‘Hood to Trail.’ I am very aware of trail running, it’s why I started this website, why I was Running Editor at Myoutdoors for several years and why I spend my time and money, training and racing on trails and in the mountains. However, the majority of runners only run on roads or in built up environments. Parks and playing fields may be the most rural settings for sessions, with the constant background noise of urbanisation and smells of petrol fumes wafting into nostrils. The trails are an alien world to many and having the opportunity to witness people’s experience of this world was not to be missed.
So, on a dark night, round the corner from a brewery, 50 lucky people witnessed the World Premiere of Hood to Trail. As well as the film, some of those who took part had been flown in to talk about their experiences and to finish, a private after party, including free pizza and drinks. Oh and socks! On every seat was a fresh pair of Stance Socks, some Run Dem Crew’s signature colab (loving mine).Hosted by Simon Freeman, Co-Founder of Like the Wind Magazine and the second time that day Simon had taken to the stage to host a session. After setting the scene, Hood to Trail played, which follows a group of runners from 3 running crews; RunDemCrew from London, Wolfpack in Copenhagen and Patta Running Crew of Rotterdam. Individuals with a common thread, a calling to running, it’s culture, its community, but unaware of the power and majesty of the trail.
They first meet up in Lyon for a shakeout run, meeting one another, before the trip to Chamonix, the global centre point of trail running . On arrival, they bundled into a cable car, straight up to watch the finish of Marathon Du Mont Blanc, Kilian‘s historic win, his first race after breaking his leg. And so, this sets the tone, as they ran to mountain huts, carrying all they need for the stop over, before descending the next day.
The description above does not do the film justice, it really does need to be seen to take in the experiences the group shared, all in their own way. This isn’t branded content or trying to force a story, it is a well crafted insight into people’s first experiences of trail running in a majestic area. The emotions are raw, the expressions on faces captured with their guard down. This is trail running. This is bridging communities. Time for the panel and let me start with a public apology. Despite taking a lot of notes, I was unable to capture the names of those who took part and therefore, these points below, outside of Charlie and Ricky’s, will be from several of the panel members.
Stance Socks have built their brand on cultures, more over counter cultures. They do things their way and have locked onto communities, who require a performance product, but want to express their own passion and identity. Running is the latest culture and it has shown to the most diverse and engaging.
I have heard of Run Dem Crew and Charlie Dark is name which I have been coming across with an ever increasing frequency lately, however, my knowledge was limited.
So what is RunDemCrew?
For starters the crew isn’t a traditional running club. They aren’t about split times, PB’s and all things running, in fact, running isn’t the topic of most conversations. The aim is to help people rediscover a love for movement. It started off with short runs, yet now members have gone onto clock sub 2.30 marathons, showing you can engage with communities, allowing people to find themselves and excel via alternative methods.
“Many people in the room remember when they went outside to play for the last time”
“We are a family, a community.”
“There is nothing as amazing as running – it is used for survival, getting away from danger, for food, for enjoyment,” “You go to school and they use it (running) for punishment.”
Run Dem Crew sets out to use running to improve your community and yourself. It is about mobilising the community to see the streets and themselves in a different light, to reconnect with the world around them and break away from negativity.
Originating from hanging out in the traditional running world, who obsess about talking about running 24/7. “Running influences my art, music & life,” and with that Charlie thought there must be a way of bridging the gap between urban culture and running. Can we bring all these different people, to learn from each other and influence their futures, to spread the wealth of knowledge and change the course of lives. Subsequently it has blown up around the world
“Running crew culture is about bring people together”
There are Crews bridging the gap in Nigeria, across Asia, New York, Europe, it truly is a global movement.
“When I put running shoes on, it’s like a passport for a new world, running places I shouldn’t be in.”Panel Members
“It’s changed my life”
My first experience was watching the end of marathon du Mont Blanc, as we walked out of the cable car. I remember taking in the views. The lead runner came in and I was shouting “Allez, Allez, Allez!” and then people around me started shouting “Allez Kiki!“. I thought Allez was his name, it turned out to be Kilian Jornet.
When I saw Ruth Croft came through to the finish line, it gave me “goosebumps“, she looked so fresh. It made me think, maybe I could do this one day.
“I was petrified with the drop”
“There wasn’t anything familiar from the city, but felt familiar from a physical stand point”
The culture of trail racing and the canvas stretched around them wasn’t the only new experience. Skills featured heavily, adapting what they knew from the road to the trail.
Going up and down was all new, so different from the flat city landscape I normally run on. Downhill we learnt to fly, to spend as little time in contact with the ground as possible. You got to jump over boulders. Running up hill, I was out of breath right away, in many ways hiking was harder then running.
“Felt more like play than urban running”
Charlie Dark “I didn’t know cowbells were from the mountains.”
“Getting from A to B was familiar – but we learnt how to run again”
For audiences at Kendal, Ricky is no stranger, having lived in the Lakes is whole life, a regular on the Fell and international trail running circuit and 2013 Trail Running World Champion.
Ricky recalled his first race at 15 or 16 years old, all of 2 miles in, being 1 1/2 hours on the trail, lost in winter, muddy and soaking wet…. it clearly had a positive effect. Before this, he only played football. Running soon became an obsession, trying different races, distances, types and technical levels.
“Apart from running round the city, it’s normally for shopping, against my choice”
As someone who lives on the edge of the Lakeland Fells, trails and mountains are Ricky’s playground, urban areas aren’t in many ways an option, without driving to the likes of Manchester or Carlisle. However, when he does head to the city he’s Always looking for trails on google maps, different routes, how they link up.
“It’s amazing watching them,” them being the running crews in the film, “Amazing to see them go from urban jungle to wide open space.”
Asked how he saw trail running appealing to those in urban areas, Salomon have a lot of credit to take in this area. From the live feed that was trialled at Marathon Du Mont Blanc, to city to trail running events, specific products, learn to trail run programmes across the country and more, Salomon have been in active in mobilising more people onto trails. They have been a larger player in sculpting the culture of the sport.
Ricky’s ran a race in Malaysia, 4 times, never looked up & around at the summit. You’ve got to take these moments in and fully appreciate them when you have the opportunity.
The Challenges of being a film maker
“Finding someone quick enough to follow them”
As I said earlier, my brief run down of Hood to Trail doesn’t do it justice, you really need to see it to absorb the experience and Katie Moore did a great job capturing the personal stories, at the same time as painting the overall picture. Simon was quick to make sure we learnt more about her experience, as she was as much part of it.
It was a challenge “Getting a contrast & crossover between city to mountains,” showing the obvious differences but allowing the familiar to come through on screen. Talking of her own experiences “I’m from slough, first experience in the lakes – had a leather jacket, thought it would do the job in the mountains.”
“Amazing to see through other eyes, a privilege to see it & bring it across.”
It was not the usual group of people Katie films and it made the process more interesting and entertaining. The majority of participants were really open to it and went with the flow, opened their minds and allowed the mountain and trails to dictate their experience. Others had preconceived ideas, were unable to show their true personalities and therefore the didn’t feature as much.
“We do have a challenge to Kilian….” You heard it here first, though, what that challenge is, I have no idea, so Kilian, when you read this, and I know you do, make sure you get in contact with the running crews.
“15 years ago we had no idea what we were doing & accidentally found out we were good at something. People who didn’t think they were good at anything have found out they have fitness tekkers.”
“Enthusiasm leads to injury” Many people are rediscovering there body and this leads them into trying new sports such as swimming, triathlon and climbing. “Running Crews are becoming movement crews” we can all learn and inform each other, become more rounded, better athletes and humans.
“We are So blinded by tech in the city, trails give a chance to switch off – good for mental health” For me (James – writing this) this is a huge acknowledgement and realisation. Mental health has increased awareness in media and communities, but finding the sources of the problems and moreover finding our own solutions is key to battling it head on, rather then relying on Medical professionals. Self care is as important as anything else we do in our lives. I was stoked to hear Charlie and Run Dem Crew are talking to Maverick Races (watch this space).
“It’s a cooler duke of Edinburgh Award”
“Youth don’t think they countryside is for them, my job is being a translator and with a foot in the door, it’s my job to bring this to you”
“From my point of view – Trail runnings become more about playtime & making you fit along the way,” “Getting out on the trail to play with friends and explore new places, it’s taken me to places I would never have been to.”
“Globally, Salomon are very much trying to make it accessible to everybody”
For those who featured in Hood to Trail
- Training for trans grancanaria 30km & Marathon Du Mont Blanc half
- Hoping to do the 10km in Chamonix
- Charlie – Race to the Stones!
“I’m 50 in 2 years time, Badwater (to gasps from the trail runners in the audience who knew the magnitude of the challenge), to inspire people”
- Run a marathon in home country in Nigeria & Mont Blanc
- City marathon – been back to Chamonix once.
I want to thank everyone Stance Socks, Charlie Dark, Ricky Lightfoot, Katie Moore, the panel, Simon Freeman, Like the Wind Mag and the Freestak team for an incredible evening. For someone as out of the loop of urban culture, it gave me a glimpse into a new world and as soon as the film is released, I’ll be featuring it on here, so you too can join in and experience the trails through others eyes for the first time.