I’ve had the good fortune of a being able to travel to London often enough to spend a few miles in the company of Run Dem Crew, a large group of fantastic people who make running through the streets of the city an adventure every time. The positive energy and heartfelt vibes of community come from the top, from the crew’s founder, Charlie Dark, aka Daddy Dark. He’s a very busy man – a poet, a teacher, a DJ, a writer – and so I was very happy to pin him down for a quick run through his hood in East London.
After the recent London Marathon, I sat in on the crew’s Tuesday night pre-run session, which they call Housekeeping. It’s when Charlie presents the medals that have been earned to the runners – most will write a note about the experience and he will congratulate them in front of their running family. A huge number of RDCers ran London so the whole night was taken over by talk of the marathon. I found myself tearing up over the stories I heard – people I didn’t know overcoming their own insecurities to take on the 26.2 miles of London town. What moved me most though, was the emotion from Charlie, a man who, after many years in the music business (some of them as part of the trip hop group Attica Blues), has “been there, done that,” and still has passion and pride to share with those around him.
I haven’t yet run London, but I did run the Hackney Half, while I was there, and got to experience the support and love of RDC first-hand. It’s not a stretch to say RDC made me appreciate London, and those who live there, in a new way. I’ve found that London can be cold – not just in weather – but they made me feel at home. Charlie, together with the likes of BridgeRunners here in NYC, has created an international network of crews that come together to support each other via various “bridge the gap” events. He’s also given us the idea of “cheer dem,” and his phrase to “do da ting” when it comes to running a race has permeated many Instagram feeds way beyond London.
I ran with him through Stratford, taking in some of the Hackney Half course to find out more about how running has left its mark on his life…