Dark Art

A Los An­ge­les run­ning crew meets at night to ad­mire the city’s street mu­rals and graf­fiti

Runner's World (UK) - - IN THIS ISSUE -

Run­ning to see LA’S mu­rals and graf­fiti at night

ERIK VALIENTE keeps his head up and cam­era ready when he laces up his train­ers to take to the streets of Los An­ge­les. By com­bin­ing two of his pas­sions – run­ning and art – Valiente has earned him­self a dig­i­tal and

lit­eral fol­low­ing. ‘I’ve al­ways been a street art fan and I’d post pic­tures on so­cial me­dia of art that I’d see on my runs,’ says the 28-year-old ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and marathoner. ‘My friends were like, “Where are you find­ing th­ese cool art pieces?”’ Valiente in­vited them to join him on a visual foot tour of the city. His mates were so im­pressed with the rov­ing art show that they per­suaded him to make it a stand­ing date.

The word spread and in three years Valiente’s group, now known as Black­listla, has grown to more than 500 mem­bers. The club meets ev­ery Mon­day night for threeto-four-mil­ers that take in pub­lic art in down­town LA and sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods. Valiente can keep his routes var­ied thanks to the fact that LA is home to thou­sands of mu­rals and graf­fiti works. ‘ The art pieces are usu­ally within a two-mile ra­dius of our meet­ing lo­ca­tion,’ says Valiente. ‘In one month we try to dis­cover four new art pieces. Our run­ners love ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Los An­ge­les in a unique way.’

Valiente sets a 10pm start time to escape LA'S no­to­ri­ous grid­lock and to cater for busy peo­ple who are more likely to be able to meet up when work is over and kids are in bed. ‘I get that peo­ple have work and fam­i­lies, and there's a need to be in your car,’ he says. ‘But we leave for work in a bub­ble and then come home in a bub­ble. I want to help peo­ple feel the city and be a part of a com­mu­nity. Time seems to slow down when you’re out at night.’

Black­listla at­tracts a mix of lo­cals and tourists, artists and run­ners. ‘We get se­ri­ous run­ners and art en­thu­si­asts, but once they join our group they’re both,’ Valiente says. Daisy Martinez, 25, is a good ex­am­ple. A grad­u­ate stu­dent at Cal­i­for­nia State Univer­sity, she never con­sid­ered her­self a run­ner be­fore a friend in­tro­duced her to Black­listla last year. ‘I ran my first three miles with them and now I'm run­ning marathons,’ says Martinez. ‘ The sup­port and guid­ance I've re­ceived is un­be­liev­able. Black­listla isn't just a club – it’s my run­ning fam­ily.’ Artists feel the love, too. Run­ners in­ter­act with them by tag­ging them on so­cial me­dia and artists of­ten re­spond. ‘What the club does is amaz­ing,’ says Septer­hed, a mu­ral­ist best known for his in­tri­cate line work and use of psy­che­delic colours. ‘I love the group pho­tos in front of my work on In­sta­gram. This is another

plat­form to pro­mote aware­ness.’ On two oc­ca­sions Black­listla has hap­pened upon street art ‘in progress’ and talked with the artist. One time, an artist even joined them for the re­main­der of their run.

Black­listla has grown in both size and am­bi­tion since its in­cep­tion. In 2015 it launched its very own race – the Happy Birth­day LA 5K – to cel­e­brate the birth of the city on Septem­ber 4, 1781. The evening event is now an an­nual fix­ture. Last year, it in­tro­duced Project 4242, a free train­ing pro­gramme geared to­wards lo­cal races from 5K to marathon dis­tance.

‘We felt the need to create Project 4242 be­cause our run­ners con­tin­ued to ask, “What’s next?”’ says Valiente. ‘ The de­sire to set higher goals, have more com­mu­nity, and an ex­cuse to go out­side more and live, still ex­isted.’ Run­ners get weekly train­ing plans, live coach­ing ad­vice and sup­ported runs with vol­un­teer pac­ers. So far, al­most 350 peo­ple have com­pleted a race through Project 4242.

Valiente hopes run­ners in many other cities with thriv­ing pub­lic art scenes will fol­low his lead in con­nect­ing peo­ple through com­mu­nity art and run­ning. ‘Some­times I ask peo­ple to de­scribe the art works in their neigh­bour­hood and they can’t,’ he says. ‘ They're run­ning by it, but they aren’t tak­ing it in. I want peo­ple to ap­pre­ci­ate the things around them.’

From Black­listla’s code of con­duct: ‘ We are com­mu­ni­ty­ori­en­tated and stronger to­gether. We in­spire move­ment, cel­e­brate each other and we all ooze pos­i­tive vibes only.’

Black­listla’s name is a ref­er­ence to the for­mer un­der­ground ‘black­listed’ sta­tus of street artists.

Pho­tos taken on the run by Black­listla mem­bers fill the club’s In­sta­gram feed.

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