Eagle Rock Run Club: From 0 to 100 in 12 months
I talk to ERRC founder, Dan Faughnder about why he started the hottest hotdog-adjacent run club in L.A. and what exactly it is that he enjoys about running.
Welcome to Running Sucks, a running blog where I talk to interesting people in the running world and search for insights into all their different ways of enjoying the process of running more and maybe becoming better at it.
We’re kicking off by celebrating Eagle Rock Run Club’s first anniversary by talking to their inspirational club founder and all-round friendly man, Dan Faughnder.
Living just a couple of miles from the group’s home base of Walt’s Bar on Eagle Rock Blvd, I’ve been following their progress from the comfort of my phone screen and in-person since day one. To say the group has had massive growth this year is a huge understatement.
Actually… Can we talk about the title of this blog first. Running… SUCKS? Sure, it’s a catchy title that is enjoyable to hiss out of your mouth, but I also genuinely believe that running sucks!
So why, if running sucks so much, am I putting any effort into writing a blog about running, then? It’s because there are also so many rewards to running. For me, acknowledging and accepting that running sucks - embracing the suck - is paramount to doing the work. It’s difficult, but there is beauty on the other side. You might even end up celebrating how much running sucks. This is me doing that.
With that said, I’m always looking for new ways to make running suck less, so why don’t we start there.
Dan Faughnder of Eagle Rock Run Club! What do you do to make running suck less?
“I run slowly. When I get to a pretty low heart rate, that’s when I feel like I can run forever and that’s when I feel like running does not suck at all. It’s a nice gentle 10-11-minute pace where my heart rate is barely into anaerobic threshold or whatever.”
Absolutely! Running at a low heart rate (120-145 BPM) is how we can run below our aerobic threshold for over 30 minutes. It’s also a great way of freeing yourself from the ego metric of speed so you can just enjoy… running (slowly), and probably end up focusing on the other big ego metric of distance instead. There is also no problem with walking. Health-wise, it does the same as running - it just takes longer to travel the same distance!
But when you stop trying to run Fastest and Furthest, what else is there?
Because I’m a big believer in mindfulness and being purposeful in one’s actions, a really important question that I ask anybody who runs (including myself) is: WHY do you run? There are no wrong answers!
Dan Faughnder of Eagle Rock Run Club! Why do you run?
“First and foremost, I run because I like it, even when it sucks. When you say that running sucks, that is true, but those are also some of the most fun runs - when they really, really suck. When you’re doing a 20-mile run and you’re at mile 18 and you’re in the real suck of it, it’s really fun to do that and to get out of [the suck]. You go through a lot of emotions in those moments and I like that.”
That is actually the perfect example of someone embracing the suck and using this occasionally incredibly difficult activity to get in touch with themselves and even learn a little more about themselves.
Having started running about five years ago because “it was the cheapest exercise [he] could find,” Dan now leads a run club that attracts 100 people every week after just one year. Despite this, he still primarily runs alone.
“Four out of five of my runs every week are alone. I like the time to myself. I use it as a meditative thing, listening to podcasts. I run in the morning, which is a nice time to piece together my day. Just having an hour to myself where I know that I’m not going to be checking email. I know that no one can bother me.”
This time to organize one’s brain strikes me as the realest everyday reason to run. It’s certainly one of the main reasons that I run. I purposefully do not even listen to music while I run - something that provokes a big surprised reaction from many people. Running with a group, however, is a whole other beast. Peace and quiet? No chance.
Why on earth does a solo runner start a run club?
“I went on a work retreat to Hawaii and I told everybody that I was going to go for a run every morning and that they could join. No pressure. I got a little crew every day! I would figure out the route and then we would go get coffee and hang out. It was a really nice way to explore the city before everybody else woke up.”
“The people who went on those runs had never ran seriously before and first I got them up to three miles and by the end of the week we were doing six-mile runs. I really enjoyed showing people that running is not just something that super athletes can do. It can also be weirdly-shaped men in their mid-30s.”
“When I got back from that, I had this general idea that I should maybe start something. In March, I just put it out there, started the Instagram, and started showing up on Thursdays at Walt’s.”
“The first one was really small, four or five people. The second one was smaller. The next two were even smaller than that. I went to Frogtown Brewery in the second month and no one showed up. I ran that one completely alone.”
“A week after that, my friends Sam and Tom started showing up every time, so then I couldn’t stop it. Then I met some people at a Silverlake Track Club event and they all showed up the next week. It was over 10 people and my mind was blown.”
“After I posted that group photo, people realized they could come to this and not have to hang out with one guy who they’ve never met before. It’s more intimidating to hang out with one or two people for an hour. You can’t really fade into the background. Since then it’s only gotten bigger every time and it’s kinda bananas.”
“Bananas” is a very reasonable way to describe the way ERRC has exploded in popularity over the first year of its existence. Now a burgeoning community beyond the three-mile Thursday evenings at Walt’s, they boast a regular Slow Jam Saturday where you can run more miles at a slower pace.
On Mondays you’ll often find Dan running four miles in the Arts District DTLA wearing a Hawaiian shirt. He also built a couple of fantastic ERRC events: Walt’s To The Sea (20 miles from Eagle Rock to the end of the Santa Monica Pier) and Chicago Marathon in aid of LA Saves Track where participants ($20/$40 charity donation buy-in) ran 25 miles between 6am and 4pm.
Dan actively doesn’t want Eagle Rock Run Club to become a second job. It’s something he’s had to think about as the jogging masses descend onto Walt’s every Thursday but he “wants this to be as low stress as possible”
“I want this to be fun. I want to go and run with my friends once a week.”
Those friends swelling the ranks include ultra-marathoners and sub-six-minute-mile racers but it’s important to remember that everyone’s the same pace when we’re waiting patiently in line at the bar at Walt’s for our post-run beer and hotdog.
”I like to think we don’t have any people who are exclusionary or trying to outrun anybody. You’re never going to get made fun of for being slow at ERRC. I want to make sure everyone feels as welcome as possible and that’s a small price to pay.”
Dan’s method of making a kick-ass run club:
Keep showing up every single week
Build a critical mass of people, less intimidating for new runners
Absolutely crush with the memes on Instagram
Create an inclusive environment, welcoming to everyone
Find a destination with hotdogs and beer
Ways to make running suck less covered today:
Run with friends
Sightsee through a new city
Run to the point where you begin to feel things that you’ve never felt before
Find a destination with hotdogs and beer
Eagle Rock Run Club
7pm every Thursday @ Walt’s Bar
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