Hella Grateful.

That’s my sentiment this week.

Despite some pretty wicked wind in the 3rd mile, the Seabrook Dragon Run was a good day. A better-than-good day really. The Run Vineland Crew [RVC] was out in full force, which has been the norm recently, and something about that day left me with a feeling of extreme gratitude about the state of SCR and the people and events that have gotten it this far.

It all clicked for me right after crossing the finish. I linked up with the other finishers from the crew and started talking about who we still had out there. Emphasis on the “we” because it’s just so cool to think that there is a “we” now. Early on things felt very… soft (for lack of a better word) for most of 2018. Like an infant that was still developing it’s muscular and skeletal form. Even with the hundreds of runners in the Grand Prix, it didn’t really feel like there was a solid crew yet. That wasn’t our race. Not all of those runners were there because of SCR. The series has been going for 20+ years and I was the foreigner, so to speak, the new guy with the bullhorn. Due to the fact that we were still finding our rhythm, group runs were inconsistent and it was always a bit of a mismatched gang each time. The Movement was there for sure, but it was slow goings at first. Still taking shape into whatever it would become.

But now it feels like something.

Since March we’ve had a lot of the same people representing Vineland at races, group runs are consistent and it’s more than just show up/run/go home. The community aspect is there and we’re constantly connecting with each other. I honestly find myself talking to some of these people more than my own friends and family. The existence of that community is and always was the main goal for this Movement.

A few of us ended up back on the course either running a cool down mile, or in Harlen and mines’ case, to bring home one of our own. Our boy Carlos has been gunning for that sub- 30 minute 5K for a couple weeks and we were hoping to make this the race. As we ran alongside him, cheering him on and pushing him to break through the wall, there was another click. moments like this are the core benefit of the team dynamic.having a crew around like this meant constant support; and people will see us giving out support so innately and that will hopefully motivate them to become a part of it or even get a crew of their own.

This whole thing started for one reason: a race; the race.

What is now the Running THE AVE 5K was the big idea, and I honestly was going to stop there, until I realized that at the core of any successful running event was a strong running community. So if this race was going to do well and continue to do well, people needed to have something to keep them connected and motivated all year round. There were plenty of runners in the area and a considerable amount of local races throughout the year, it all just needed to be a little more connected. I personally felt, and now I think so did others, that there needed to be some kind of binding force to fortify something that was already kind of there.

I myself was the kind of runner that would just show up to the local 5k, run it, get my shirt and banana, maybe stick around for awards, and then go home. Some of the people I have gotten so close to were people I was always running with but never bothered to get friendly with. Vineland is a big town with one of the biggest summer running series in the state, so why no running club? It didn’t even take much to get it going. At the first race that I tried to make an effort to meet some people and talk to them about the idea, the CCC Alumni 5k (RIP), I met Tim G. Anyone that comes around a lot or is part of our Facebook group definitely knows Tim. If I’m the face of the Movement, then Tim is the voice. No one has been more spirited about what we do or has wrangled more people into being a part of it, and that’s why he is our unofficial mascot.

Through the small network of people collected so far I somehow ended up with the race director gig for the Grand Prix. What are the odds?? Like seriously, just a couple months into this and I’m already helping to produce a 5 week series that sees over 300 runners? Not what I expected to happen at all. I wasn’t even 100% sure I wanted to do it when I volunteered, but how could I pass an opportunity like that up? I’m glad I didn’t because it was an awesome experience and just what I needed to remind myself that this was bigger than just what I wanted to see happen or my ideas. There were already hundreds of people that have been running this town years before I had even bought my first pair of Sauconys and they, more than anyone, knew what Vineland needed. So I listened and I learned and I’m extremely grateful for that summer (and the many more to come).

It’s all been high-speed, forward motion since then. There’s always new ideas and chances to do things that other crew are doing (or not doing) that at times I find myself almost overwhelmed with the possibilities. The way I function as a worker is very, “okay, what’s next?” all the time and I don’t take enough time to acknowledge what’s already been done. Is there more to come? Hell friggin yes there is! We’re only a year in and the collective idea pads are filling up. But a lot has also happened this year and I can’t let myself forget that, because there were too many people involved to leave all the work unnoticed or under appreciated.

Every single one of us went home with trophies that day. Like actual trophies. The people that put on this race said screw the usual medal and gave all age group winners trophies, not just the overall winners. Pretty ballsy, but very cool. Age group wins may not seem like a big deal to all runners, but a lot of our crew are people approaching or past their middle age, and most of them are people that didn’t get into running until much later in their lives. I’ve found that they value these victories (as they should) more than the serious types that are going for top 3 or bust. These people genuinely enjoy getting up at 7 am on a Saturday and running in whatever conditions the good lord gives them just to try to move up another spot in their AG ranking. The thrilling challenge of striving for better and better each week motivates all of us and we feed off of each others charges. I’d like to think it’s evident to other runners, and if we aren’t yet, I’d say Run Vineland Crew is on it’s way to being an unstoppable force at all the local runs.

What’s next?

I don’t know! — Well I do and I don’t.

This thing is still growing and changing and I’m kind of enjoying letting it steer itself with just a little bit of gentle guidance from me. Ultimately, I’d like SCR and RVC to be an autonomous operation, and as they grow I hope it will attract more and more people with similar passions and drives that will bring new ideas to the table. We’re already are getting people like that and I can feel there’s going to be a time when I don’t need to be around to make sure things are happening, or to cover the things that are happening. The idea of the Movement is to gain enough momentum that it’s just running itself. There should be no one person that can be pinpointed as the driving force because it’s an entire community. Hell, maybe the entire city.

I really hope there’s more running clubs/groups/movements a few years from now, because there’s just no way this one entity could represent all of the diverse cultures and communities dwelling within this big ass city. This never needs to receive credit as the “spark" or anything like that. It’s not about credit as much as it is about just getting things moving and shaking off whatever it is that seems to keep people around here stuck in their ruts.

This past year was all that I hoped it would be, and so much I didn’t expect. Absolutely none of it would have been possible without the people that took chances and showed up to a group run, or signed up for their first 5k because they saw something we posted. RVC is a crew, not a club, because clubs are exclusive and we aren’t exclusive. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… and we’ll show them what this running stuff is all about.

One year down. A million more to go.


andre rivera