When the newly created “WeRun313” run club finished its weekly 5K and 10K practice runs along the Dequindre Cut May 23, they had no idea they would be running an official 5K race days later. That Sunday, WeRun313 competed in its first race as a run club, crossing the finish line 20-plus strong at the inaugural Detroit Grand Prix 5000 5K on Belle Isle.
“They were, by far, the largest race club on the island for the inaugural Detroit Grand Prix 5000 5K,” said Richard Swor, race director and co-owner of Trivium Racing.
Why was it a big deal that WeRun313 was the largest group in a field of 441? Because the run club is predominately African American, in a sport that is dominated participation wise by white people in the city of Detroit and around the country.
WeRun313 not only came and saw, but they conquered the course that IRL racers in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will race this weekend. Its top finisher was Mike Berry, who ran the 3.1 miles in 19:12 minutes, good for 8th overall. Right behind him were co-founders Lance Woods, finishing in 19:27 (9th overall), and Joe Robinson in 21:46 (32nd overall).
Berry, Woods, Robinson, and Aaron Barnett each reached the podium, finishing in the top three of their age groups. Barnett finished 35th overall in a time of 22:02. The best finisher amongst the women was Carman Jones, coming in 311th overall in a time of 38:13.
“We wanted to get people in-tune with the sport of racing, which is why we all registered for the race,” said Woods. “Winning medals together and feeling that sense of accomplishment together is something I haven’t seen around here.”
WeRun313 was launched May 4 by Woods, 30, and Robinson, 28. The two had been avid runners for years, but did not know each other prior to a few months ago. They connected through a mutual friend, Ashley Wheatley, and begin to run together at the Lexus Velodrome in Detroit and around the city. The two connected instantly and decided it was time to bring other black runners together.
“We noticed that it was an open market for black runners in the city of Detroit,” said Woods, who is a Dream Director with the Future Project at Detroit Cody High School. “I’ve been running for four years now, but I had been doing a lot of that running by myself. With WeRun313, we wanted to bring others that looked like us along the journey of running.”
Robinson shared the same story as Woods. He, too, would run by himself and even tried to start a running club of his own a couple of years ago — to no avail. But now that he has connected with someone with similar goals, in Woods, WeRun313 is the fastest growing run club in the Detroit area. The club runs three times a week during “2 Mile Tuesdays” in midtown Detroit; “5K or 10K Thursdays” along the Dequindre Cut; and for the stronger runners, 8-15 mile runs around Belle Isle.
“One of my favorite runners, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, says that he can’t run a world record without his team,” said Robinson, who is the co-founder of APX Management. “I figured that I was going to be as fast as I was going to be by myself and I needed to run with a group. But I needed to get with the right person; somebody who was just as enthusiastic as me and had just as much influence to bring people out. Lance was that person.”
Over the past month, WeRun313 has garnered a lot of interest from black runners in the Detroit area. The day of its launch, over 80 people showed up to participate in the run fun along Woodward Avenue. That number has since dwindled, but they still average 20 or more runners of all levels throughout the week.
Doug Williams is the veteran of the group. The 49-year-old has been running consistently since 2012, averaging 3 miles per day. A Navy veteran, Williams is a member of a number of run clubs, including Black Men Run and Run This Town Detroit, and was intrigued by what WeRun313 had to offer.
“I like to run with groups of people,” said Williams, who has won close to 100 medals running. “The more groups I’m in, the more knowledge I get from all walks of life and networking. I was looking at the personal social media pages of the WeRun313 members and they are doing all kinds of things in life.”
For runners who may not be as dedicated or decorated as Williams, WeRun313 has something to offer them as well. The group’s slogan is “Connect, Run, & Build.” Not only does running help build your physical state, but your mental state as well. Competing for medals gives the members a sense of accomplishment and connecting with other young black professionals is always a plus.
“It’s given me a boost of self-confidence. The whole experience has made me realize what I’m capable of when I really push myself towards a goal,” said Jones, who ran her first 5K race with WeRun313. “This mindset has spilled over to running my own art studio and my personal projects. There have also been a lot of great women that I’ve been able to make solid connections with that I may not have made otherwise.”
“It has pushed me to never give up,” added Asia McMikel. “When I set goals, I hold myself accountable to reach them and this run club has given me that mindset to complete the challenge I set for myself.”
After each run, the WeRun313 team patronizes a black-owned business. On Tuesdays, they mingle at the Griot Music Lounge in midtown Detroit or the Three Thirteen store along the Livernois Avenue of Fashion.
The club is only a month into the race, but they have big plans for the course ahead. Instead of meeting at someone else’s establishment, Woods and Robinson wants WeRun313 to have its own clubhouse, equipped with gear, shoes, dieticians, nutritionists,masseuses, physical therapists, and so much more.
“We aren’t really trying to make ourselves different, we are just creating a unique culture here at WeRun313,” Robinson said.
WeRun313 can be found on all social media platforms: Twitter: @WeRun313, Facebook: WeRun313, Instagram: WeRun313, and by email: WeRun313@gmail.com.