Climbing the stairs up to Vancouver Running Company, there’s an air of excitement from the people already gathered inside. Clusters of people are milling throughout the shop, laughing and sharing stories from their week so far, eager to spend their Thursday evening with a group of people who share our interest - running. A few nervous smiles are exchanged between newcomers but as soon as Rob, one of the owners of the store, has everyone’s attention, the warm welcome can’t help but make you feel like part of the Flight Crew family in an instant.
Faces are beaming as results from the previous weekends’ races are proudly celebrated and we’re reminded of the route for the evening, who to follow, landmarks to look out for. Chatter fills the air again as we move slowly outside - the cooler air encouraging us to jump and stretch briefly in anticipation - and with a chorus of beeps from our watches, we run. People look on with amusement as we pass them - smiles forming on their faces as the excitement the group carries infects them.
Hearts pound and breathing is heavy as we stop-start through the neighbourhood, but once we reach the seawall we find our rhythm, breaking off into smaller groups, the conversations ebbing and flowing with the undulations. We talk about everything from the weather to the last races we ran, from our own running journeys, to plans for the weekend.
The laughter up ahead signals a brief rest break as Flight Crew ambassadors herd us into position for a ‘class photo’. Arms are thrown in the air and smiles are wide as we pose for the picture - no one minds stopping mid-run; there are no prizes for running a PB, it’s about much more than that. Someone groans that they forgot to stop their watch, and with equal measures of laughter and sympathy, we’re off again.
We stop once more for a quick head count and to admire the sun sinking over the ocean; the golden hour a prime time to be out for a run. Stopping to take a photo, cries of ‘I’ll catch up’ are hushed as the rest of the small pack of runners happily wait - no one is left behind.
The temperature is dropping and as we realise the run is coming to an end, the pace starts to quicken, each person pushing the next to finish strong with some friendly competition along the way. A quick pause at a crossing, and the lights turning to green is our signal to push for home. Hearts hammering in our chests, we gather back outside the shop, breathless but smiles wide as we high five one another on a run well done. No one rushes to leave - finishing the conversation whilst stretching and cooling down is how things work here.
It’s a Flight Crew social night, so we head next door for pizzas and beer to combat the runger that’s begun to set in. The 5km group are already there, but have left spaces for the 10km-ers to slot in between them, and regulars catch up with their crewmates, introducing new friends made on tonight’s run, sharing news and discussing plans. Gradually people start to leave, and without missing a beat, when someone calls ‘see you next week?’ I know exactly where I’ll be at 6.15 next Thursday.