Wonderland Trail, Washington, USA
© Ryan Thrower / Red Bull Content Pool
Running

Feeling a need to connect and belong? Running may be the answer

In Episode 5 of the Why I Run podcast, a trail runner from the American West and a DJ who hits the streets in London explain how running provides the sense of community that so many of us seek.
By Trish Medalen
4 min readPublished on
Dylan Bowman, 36, is a professional athlete who gets up at the crack of dawn to run remote trails in his home state of California. Charlie Dark, who is entering his 50s, is a poet, teacher, mentor and DJ who loves to go running after midnight in a British city of nine million people.
Yet both mention a sense of community as one of their primary motivations for running. And as the podcast reveals, they give back by growing that community themselves, among people of all kinds, all ages and all levels of ability.
“In today's world, there's a deep need to feel belonging, and it's hard to find,” Bowman says. “The thing that brought me into the sport was the curiosity of the human challenge. But the thing that's kept me in it is the community, the friendships.”
Bowman points out that trail running is not necessarily the same as the extreme-distance sport of ultrarunning: at its core, trail running simply means running off-road, at any speed, for any distance. That makes it accessible to almost anyone, including App Runners in the Wings for Life World Run.
“It's not that you have to run every step, even – it's just a matter of moving a little bit more quickly over terrain. It's more about connecting with nature and moving efficiently at whatever pace you choose,” he adds.
Ultrarunner Dylan Bowman
Ultrarunner Dylan Bowman
The thing that brought me into the sport was the curiosity of the human challenge. But the thing that's kept me in it is the community, the friendships
The Californian has seen trail running take off in popularity and credits the tight-knit community for the sport’s success.
“People who come in with maybe some intimidation are greeted by a community of people who are happy to teach them the ropes,” he describes. “It has such a powerful impact on their lives that it becomes kind of a core part of their personal identities and overall lifestyle.”
Over in London, Dark came to running because he himself was looking for a positive experience.
“I started running because I'd let my mind and my body slide. And I had this moment where I looked in the mirror, like, ‘Who's that staring back at me? He's overweight, the sparkle has been lost from his eyes. And he doesn't seem happy’,” Dark remembers.
Dark is a London poet, DJ and mentor featured on the Why I Run podcast
Charlie Dark
He started running at night because he was self-conscious about being seen. But after a while, Dark realised that he did want to be seen, as a way to inspire young people and people of colour to realise that if he could do it, they could do it, too.
“Running is a chance to bring balance and peace into my life. I see it as kind of a blessing,” Dark says. “I fell in love with the culture, and I started to see the benefits. I thought, this is something that I could share with the young people that I'm coming into contact with [and] also my friends in the music industry.”
Dark started Run Dem Crew, which works with young people across the British capital to provide mentoring and advice along with the opportunity to explore London in a safe, supportive environment – through running.
Dark is a guest on the Why I Run podcast
Charlie Dark on an urban run
Running is a chance to bring balance and peace into my life. I see it as kind of a blessing. I fell in love with the culture, and I started to see the benefits
Charlie Dark
Another community that come together through running are the Wings for Life World Runners who will be taking part in the run for those who can’t on May 8. Bowman participates every year and says,
“I've had the privilege to do it both as an App Run and at a Flagship Run. That was a very powerful moment: Not only the run itself – which was really fun, challenging and rewarding – but also because I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of the Wings for Life Ambassadors who have suffered spinal cord injury. It was so eye-opening, so inspiring, hearing their stories, seeing their attitudes… honestly like a highlight in my career. So the Run is really important for me.”
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