In 2013, Nike brought free fitness to Lincoln Park with the Nike Training Center at Armitage and Dayton. Although the store/fitness studio has since left the neighborhood, its legacy remains with Crew Runs the World.
Originally brought together through a marathon training program that operated out of NTC, the women involved bonded so much over a summer of running together that they wanted to keep up their group runs after last year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon. When NTC closed at the beginning of the year, Crew Runs the World became its own independent running club that aims to cater to runners of all abilities.
"Some run clubs are focused on meeting PRs or having good runs and races," Carolyn Gardner, founder and lead organizer of CRW, says. "We do that, but we're somewhere in the middle. It's not as much about being a competitive run club or group, but more getting together and creating a social and welcoming environment for people to run with."
That positive atmosphere drew Melissa Klauda to the club this past spring. Looking for a support system to keep her motivated to run, Klauda joined up with CRW and now regularly runs with the group.
"With Crew, it's like you have a commitment every week and you're happy to do it," Klauda says.
Running with CRW motivated Klauda to try race distances she had never before attempted, and later this year she plans to run both her first half marathon and her first marathon.
"I was inspired by everyone I met in the group," Klauda says. "Mostly everyone has done marathons and half marathons especially, and seeing everyone doing it and talking about it made me want to do it. I want to get that milestone. They were the reason I committed and decided to do it."
Though many CRW members have a marathon or several under their belts, that shouldn't discourage anyone who hasn't run 26.2 from running with CRW, according to member Liz Baxter.
"We have such a range, so you can relate to somebody," Baxter says. "There's always someone you can run with and have a conversation with."
CRW meets on Tuesday mornings at Fleet Feet Sports in Old Town, at the Ben Franklin statue near North and LaSalle on Tuesday evenings for speedwork and at Road Runner Sports on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. The group also offers monthly fitness events, such as boot camp, yoga or a foam rolling clinic.
"We wanted to do something that makes us a little different and incorporate the fitness that brought us together," Gardner says.
While the group may be relatively new to the Chicago running scene, Klauda has no doubt that it will last.
"It's hard to keep stuff like this going, but everyone involved is really committed, especially the core members and people that started it," Klauda says. "It's a group to look out for."
To learn more about Crew Runs the World and to sign up for group runs, visit www.crewrunstheworld.com.