St. Louis Run Crew invites all to run through the 314
The benefits of running are well studied and documented. Running is one of the easiest ways to get into fitness, but running culture is not always accessible to everyone. While most running clubs are inherently inclusive, Ricky Hughes would often find himself the only person of color in local running groups.
“It was kind of lonely being the only Black face at a lot of these running crews in St. Louis,” he said. “The very first time [St. Louis Run Crew met] we had like, eight or nine people. [That] showed me that we need this here in St. Louis.”
He founded St. Louis Run Crew with inclusion in mind — specifically to introduce Black and brown people to running and create a space where they can be comfortable. He says the crew — which meets on Sundays in Kiener Plaza Park — is “open to all faces, paces and laces.”
He told St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis Run Crew also aims to make running accessible for all ages and physical abilities.
“I didn't [just] start running. I started walking. I would walk because I couldn't run a mile [yet]. So, I would walk, then run, walk, run — I didn't just hop off the porch and start running,” Hughes said. “Some folks run with strollers [or] with their kids. [We have runners] as young as 2 years old to my da., who’s 77. … Everybody's welcome, and it's really just changed my life to see people come from St. Charles, north side, south side and the county.”
Hughes initially resisted the idea of starting his own running club, but he was inspired by other running clubs he participated in that center on Black runners in cities like Los Angeles and Detroit. He said founding St. Louis Run Crew took some encouragement from a friend and fellow runner.
“I wanted to run with other run crews in St. Louis and have my camera and do my content and do my reels and tell my story. But what I saw was all the running crews were all white,” he said. “A friend [that leads a running club] who is white, was trying to make running in St. Louis more inclusive. As he started to see what I was doing, he said, ‘Ricky, you need to do this.’”
Hughes was re-introduced to running as he searched for ways to cope with depression and anxiety brought on by stress from both the pandemic and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. The killing and subsequent court trials illuminated the fears Black runners in America struggle with.
“[Non-Black runners] need to know that we have a different thought process before we walk out the door. I wear a lot of neon green. My shoes today are neon green. [The St. Louis Run Crew] logo has neon green in it. I wear neon green so people know I'm running,” Hughes said. “It’s no like, ‘Oh, what's this Black kid doing running through my community?’ But if I have on neon green, maybe they’ll think, ‘Oh, maybe he might be running. He's not running from somebody's house. He's running.’”
For more about St. Louis Run Crew and their participation in the GO! St. Louis Marathon, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.
What: St. Louis Run Crew
When: 10 a.m. Sundays
Where: Kiener Plaza Park (500 Chestnut St., St. Louis, MO 63101)
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.