Film Tourism and Fitness with the L.A. Cinephile Run Club
If you’re a fan of visiting filming locations in real life, consider joining the L.A. Cinephile Run Club as they build a unique brand of like-minded movie tourists.
Welcome to Running Sucks, a running blog where I talk to interesting people in the running world to find out how to make running suck less.
I grew up in London. Art is a huge part of my life, both personally and professionally, and at least 50% of the television, music, and film that I was exposed to came from the USA.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I took it upon myself to visit as many iconic locations as I could, whether it be the Vista Theatre in Los Feliz (True Romance) or the SoCal sand of Manhattan Beach (Point Break).
So, when I saw a new running club called the L.A. Cinephile Run Club that runs to different filming locations, I knew it was something I had to participate in. Here, I sit down with the club’s organizer, Sean Johnson to talk about what he’s doing.
Hi, Sean. Where did the idea for the L.A. Cinephile Run Club come from?
“Over Covid, I was running the same route over and over again. To make things interesting, I was thinking of fun things to do and I realized that Reservoir Dogs was shot in my neighborhood. I did some internet sleuthing and saw that I could go from my house and hit seven filming locations within a 10k route.”
“Also, for the past three Octobers, I’ve been doing my own Haddonfield 5k in South Pasadena, where they filmed Halloween. Last year, there were enough people there and smiling that it encouraged me to do this on the regular. Making people happy with running and nerding out!”
“Run clubs can be serious, they can be cliquey, too casual - they run the gamut - but this one I just wanted nerdy, effortless fun.”
Having grown up in Los Angeles’s South Bay, Sean visited shoots for cult classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Beverly Hills 90210 as well as Tarantino movies. It’s been something that’s been on his mind for a while.
When he discovered that while there are countless blogs, vlogs, and walking tours around filming locations, there wasn’t a running club, he sprang to action using the DIY spirit fostered through years of being in touring punk bands.
“If you want something, just do it. You want to start a running club? Start it. If it gives you that excitement, that feeling you don’t get every day, and it allows you to bring people together, do it. It might not last forever, it might just last a minute, but do it.”
And doing it, he is. While most run clubs convene at least weekly, the L.A. Cinephile Run Club happens every two months. It’s a bid to be thoughtful about the process and make each one a real event.
The second run, for instance, celebrated the Fast & Furious franchise, taking in the sights of Echo Park and Angelino Heights. After pausing at Dominic Toretto’s house for a photo opportunity, Sean announced a 400m race - an homage to the classic Toretto quote: “I live my life a quarter mile at a time.”
Winners got some vintage F&F merchandise and some Coronas were shared. It’s that extra bit of thought that leaves people walking away with a smile on their face.
Why do you run, Sean?
“I only started running a decade ago [around age 30], just doing a mile here and there, but I got very sick with undiagnosed Lyme disease. I was on antibiotics for a year, but for two years life was happening but I was getting sicker and sicker, almost to the point where I felt I could die. Lyme disease… your brain shuts down, your body shuts down, you lose muscle mass. I was already a little guy and I was looking and feeling horrible.”
“Once I got through that treatment I just thought about how running in that tiny increment made me feel, so I started running more. I was feeling better and better and loved it. I did a 5k, then a half marathon, then a full. My sister is a Disney nerd, so she signed me up for the Disney half-marathon in 2017, and that was the first long run that I trained for.”
“It was a [physical] health thing, but now that I’m healthy, it’s more of a) an addiction and b) it’s my meditation. I don’t listen to music, I don’t run with headphones. I listen to my breath, I listen to my thoughts. It’s as normal as brushing my teeth now.”
What do you do to make running suck less?
“Because I don’t run with headphones, I’ve taken to observing. It’s a fun way to occupy the time: thinking about creative things, being stimulated by things around me, seeing funny things that shouldn’t be there.”
“During Covid, I would see masks every 10ft, so I would be taking pictures of all different kinds of masks on the ground - some are brand new, different shapes, some are homemade. It got to the point where I was picking them up and throwing them in the trash, because it was so disgusting.”
This week’s coaching tip is maybe a little more holistic, a little more lifestyle-oriented. It’s about…
Why? I run most of my miles alone - from my house, around the neighborhood - but I love running clubs for two reasons.
On a training level, running with others can help you run at a pace that you might normally struggle to find and/or maintain.
For instance, I sometimes use the frontrunners of the group to keep a higher pace than usual, over 5km/3mi. Other times, I run in the middle of the pack for a slower than usual workout. My usual neighborhood running pace is somewhere in-between, so running clubs help me with all of my pacing!
How do you make friends over the age of 30? Join a club! A running club is as good as any.
When I moved country, at the age of 31, I already had a wonderful cabal of confidantes in London. When I landed in LA, however, I had to start afresh. I started running races and with clubs all across Los Angeles in a bid to get to know this new city properly, but I also found friends along the way. They became people that I would see every single week and have a post-run chat with, but I wouldn’t even have their phone number! We just relied on the hard fact that we’d see one another again the following week at run club. Is this how people used to meet in the pub in the olden days? Every Tuesday at 7pm? Maybe! It’s certainly how I do it now.
Ways of making Running Suck Less covered today:
Purposefully run past iconic locations
Take in your surroundings while you run
Run for your health - mental and physical
Find a running club that caters to your needs
Use different paces at running clubs to help you
Build your own running club and spread some joy
Find new friends with common interests at a run club
Sean is one of those people I saw at run clubs every week. From Mikkeller Run Club in DTLA and LA Craft Runners to Valley Runners at the Americana and Eagle Rock Run Club in NELA. I’ve seen him at dozens of different spots across L.A. and greeted him with a fist bump every time. You’ll no doubt be pleased to know that we leveled up our friendship by sharing phone numbers not too long ago.
If you’re looking for a reason to get out of the door, try letting a run club be one. Maybe you’ll make your way to the next L.A. Cinephile Run Club.
See you there for some film tourism, fitness, and a fist bump. It’ll be fun.
Thanks to Jared Cowan and LA Mag for the photo of the Vista Theatre.
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