Running is one of those things you either love... or love to hate. In Los Angeles, some dedicated runners are trying to transform your perceptions of exercise and the city through the art that inhabits it. Michael Radcliffe is a writer and reluctant runner in L.A.
There’s a group of runners, several hundred strong, trying to make you fall in love with both running and Los Angeles at the same time.
Blacklist LA takes people out of the congested traffic and gets them on the streets. Los Angeles is not short on places to run, but where to start? That's why Blacklist LA switches it up. It meets multiple times a week and the location changes. This way, a lot of the city is seen.
“There are parts of the city that I’ve never seen, prior to running with Blacklist,” said Marcus Rentie. He’s a pacer with Blacklist. Pacers act as guides for the run, and even play dj, running with small speakers to set the rhythm.
10 p.m. on a Monday may not seem like an ideal time to draw a big for anything, let alone running, but Blacklist LA has a secret weapon: the group’s Instagram account. That's how Markie Sandoval found out about the group. “I saw the pictures that they take. I saw these runners and I’m like, ‘I’m not ready to be there yet,’ said Sandoval.
But now she’s here training for her first marathon.
The object of every run is to visit a mural in the city. And with hundreds of murals, street art and graffiti across town, the city is ripe with pieces to discover.
Erik Valiente is Blacklist LA’s founder. Tonight he gathers the runners together and announces the night's route through a megaphone: a nearly four mile loop with the prized destination/mural in between. Then, the runners take off as onlookers stared questioningly.
Trayvon Tillis is a recurring runner with Blacklist. He brought his own speakers and music to run along with him. Rick James’ “Superfreak” blasted as he ran. “My time-- when I first started running, it was 14:58 a mile and I got to 7:17 a mile,” Tillis boasts. Other runners motivated him to keep going.
Then as promised, about halfway along the route, Valiente squaks to the runners through his megaphone about the street artist duo known as DOURONE.
Valiente explains when DOURONE visited L.A. last year, the artists fell in love with the city. The corresponding mural depicts the duo's affection for L.A.'s architecture and its people. The runners rest as they take in the mural. A photo is snapped for Instagram posterity. Then, it's time to head back.
A big group waited for the runners at the finish line. Cheers and congratulations echoed along the urban trail. “You are amazing!” Chimere Washington shouted to anyone within earshot. A recent L.A. transplant, she's quickly made Blacklist a part of her life.
“You’re not leaving here the way you came!" She belted out. "You just built wings. You just built integrity. You just built determination, it’s amazing!”