Club Scene

How a hus­band and wife team are chang­ing the face of the run­ning in­dus­try thanks to their shop and run crew

Canadian Running - - CONTENTS - By Melissa Offner Writer Melissa Offner loves to share her pas­sion for move­ment and the out­doors.

VRC Flight Crew, Van­cou­ver, B.C.

Started merely a few weeks af­ter the launch of their run­ning-spe­cific re­tail shop, Van­cou­ver Run­ning Com­pany, the vrc Flight Crew run club is the brain­child of Rob Smith and his wife Becky, both en­thu­si­as­tic run­ners with a pen­chant for all things in­no­va­tive and com­mu­nity-driven.

Rob Smith re­mem­bers the first crew run like it was yes­ter­day: “The first night we launched Flight Crew, the three of us [Rob ac­com­pa­nied by his two newly ap­pointed run lead­ers, whom he had met just a few weeks pre­vi­ously] were stand­ing there in our cot­ton t-shirts, wait­ing to see if any­one would show up. I think we had eight peo­ple show up and I re­mem­ber right away think­ing this is an amaz­ing first step, and it just kept grow­ing from there.”

Since the in­cep­tion of the vrc Flight Crew back in the spring of 2015, the group has be­come one of the big­gest and fastest in the lower main­land. Ev­ery Thurs­day, the Flight Crew heads out from the Van­cou­ver Run­ning Co. shop in the city’s west end for a 5k and 10k route around the area. Ad­di­tion­ally, the crew meets up ev­ery sec­ond Sun­day for a run on one of Van­cou­ver’s lo­cal trails.

How­ever, the ob­jec­tive since day one has al­ways been to pro­vide run­ners with more than just a so­cial run crew. “One of the main ob­jec­tives with Van­cou­ver Run­ning Co. is to push the run­ning in­dus­try for­ward. We re­ally don’t want to be your main­stream run-of-the-mill run shop and so we go out of our way to do things to stand out and give peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ences that they would not get from an­other run shop,” Smith says.

The first ex­pe­ri­ence came un­der the ban­ner of We Run The Night, a part­ner­ship with Adi­das back in Oc­to­ber of 2015, where peo­ple were in­vited to sign up for a non­de­script run­ning event, which sold out in un­der 10 min­utes. “I was shocked. There were 65 spots, and they filled up in­stantly,” Smith re­calls. “That was one of the defin­ing mo­ments where I re­al­ized that the run­ning world re­ally wants dif­fer­ent stuff.”

As time went on, brand ac­ti­va­tions, clin­ics, beer launches, shoe-fit­ting an­i­ma­tion videos and ex­pe­ri­en­tial events are what help put Flight Crew on the map. Af­ter the first full year of man­ag­ing the shop and run crew, Red Bull ap­proached Rob and his team to help el­e­vate their Wings for Life event in Van­cou­ver, an app run that helps fund spinal cord re­search and in­jury re­cov­ery. This marked not only the be­gin­ning of an im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship with the brand, which led to sub­se­quent events such as last year’s heli-drop trail run We Run The Sky and most re­cently the Red Bull 400 in Whistler, but also what kick­started their char­ity in­volve­ment.

“Be­fore we opened the shop, I used to vol­un­teer a ton of time to the cy­cling world. But when we opened the shop, I didn’t have time to com­mit to that any more, so the Flight Crew be­came a ve­hi­cle for me to give back to the com­mu­nity,” Smith says, “I am a firm be­liever that if you want to be a good cit­i­zen, then you should re­ally con­trib­ute to your com­mu­nity.”

Nowa­days, the Van­cou­ver Run­ning Co. and its Flight Crew or­ga­nizes up­wards of ten events a year, the two main events for the run crew be­ing the Sum­mer So­cial, a pre-SeaWheeze Half Marathon com­mu­nity run and the hol­i­day Win­ter So­cial to raise money for a lo­cal char­ity. Last year, with the help of the other run clubs in the city, more than $4,000 was raised for Covenant House, a shel­ter for home­less youth in Van­cou­ver.

Though run clubs and crews are some­what at a piv­otal mo­ment in time now, peo­ple who started the run crews, such as Rob as Becky Smith, aren’t go­ing any­where. “Flight Crew will al­ways be there. Ev­ery­body wants to run, and where it’s re­ally go­ing to keep evolv­ing is on the coat­tails of the Van­cou­ver Run­ning Co. As we gain recog­ni­tion in the run world, so will the Flight Crew,” says Rob Smith. “But the com­mu­nity com­po­nent of what we built with Flight Crew, is what re­ally brings me a lot of joy. Just see­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple that have come through the doors to run with Flight Crew and that a lot of them are off build­ing their own parts of the run world now, that is re­ally what it’s about.”

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