Matt Green roars in the center of the crowd at one of the District Running Collectives night runs.
Matt Green roars in the center of the crowd at one of the District Running Collectives night runs.

Known as one of America’s most fit cities for several years, Washington, D.C. has emerged as a place where fun and fitness go hand in hand. Unfortunately, the images that come to mind are often white residents and not dozens of young, black women and men running through Capitol Hill.

The District Running Collective (DRC) wants to change the way minority communities views running and “social sports” in the city.

“We just wanted to create a welcoming space for all levels of runners,” said Matt Green, a product of Prince George’s County’s DeMatha Catholic High School.

Green started the DRC with friends Taylor Blake, Chaz Dawson and Carlin Myrick, whom he met while attending North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C. They noticed the shift in the popularity of running culture and the formation of running clubs all over the world, which led to the decision of bringing the concept to their circle in 2013.

The spark that led to the founding of the DRC was the unconventional decision to have a 5k race instead of a party for Green’s 26th birthday. Fast-forward to today, they have organized their signature event, the ‘Weekly Run’ series every Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. meeting at Capital Fringe on Florida Avenue in Northeast.

Runners of all levels meet, greet, warm-up and stretch together before hitting the streets with a group of their choice for the evening run.

The captains typically decide on a two to four mile pre-planned route for the weekly run, which consists of a three-level system that separates runners into groups called cruisers, movers and flyers. The flyers are the fastest most advanced runners, and they run the longer routes. The movers are composed of more casual runners and the newcomers to the group take the less aggressive routes with the cruisers.

Since those first few runs in 2014, DRC has become a prominent fixture on the health and wellness scene in the District.

“The group really represents what D.C. is for us,” Green said. “The transient nature of the city allows DRC events to be great opportunities to network and grow one’s social circle in D.C. People come to make friends and some make lifelong friends. We’ve had people get married, it’s crazy!”

Recently the core members and captains of the DRC took part in “The Speed Project” an endurance challenge, where teams run 344 miles from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

The DRC was the only all-black team to participate in the remarkable, but grueling run.

“We went out there to one, represent D.C. and two to give a window into what’s possible for folks who never saw someone who looks like me doing something like this,” Green said.

The camaraderie and support the group provides participants is a large part of DRC’s appeal.

They are on a mission to make running while black a thing here in Washington, D.C., according to the group.

Paul Robinson, a member since 2015, said, “it’s a real community, we all have each other’s backs out there.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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