If you’ve ever asked a River City Runner (RCR) how to become a member or if you can get a shirt and were greeted with a dumbfounded gaze — you aren’t alone.

It isn’t something you said or did — it is because we didn’t try to become a crew and had no idea what that looked like or how to answer the question.

Five years later, the question still kind of baffles us, but rest assure, many conversations have been had on the topic. One might argue, too many.

For us, RCR was and will always be, a group of friends that run together regardless of the name, the logo or the website. We came together as unconventional as many of our members are, but from my recollection, this is how we stumbled into becoming an Edmonton running crew…

The ladies edition

I met some of the “founding RCR ladies” six years ago by forcing a handful of women at the Edmonton Hypothermic Half to give me their numbers (wrote them on my race bib) so I could run with them. They obliged and kicked my ass. I was dropped, I found excuses to loop back early but I kept appearing and holding on. Eventually I gained the fitness to carry a conversation as we trekked through the river valley trails — and even got to drop a few of them from time-to-time.

This fierce group of women met in the morning but as time passed and life happened, some stopped road racing to run mountains (and beat everyone), or moved across the world. New people showed up — all in their own unique way and for different reasons, to which, eventually formed this infamous crew.

I do recall twitter being quite the runner-creep-tool caveat of the time, at least for Andrea Rice and Kacey Keyko.

For you youngsters, today we use Strava for that.

The guys edition

I believe most of our dudes met or reconnected while “eating hills for breakfast” on Emily Murphy (yes we date back to when November Project was at Emily Murphy, not Walterdale). It was during these hill repeats that they discovered their mutual fall race ambitions and agreed it was better to log miles alongside like-minded people than solo.

One of these dude’s was Nick Keyko, husband to our ladies edition, Kacey. Kacey was our intel into this group of bros running similar paces and with the same races in mind. This sounded appealing, minus their ungodly long run start times, but we compromised like all men and women do with ease, and our co-ed runs began.

The co-ed happenings

Soon it was interchangeable who you were running with.

It was organic. It was fun. It was sweaty. It wasn’t supposed to be anything more than that.

Over the next year, people came out for runs and either kept coming or never came back. We figured that self selection was naturally based on the 6am start time, the pace and that you had to be ok with being left behind. We were there for each other but we were all there for ourselves and our race goals.

It seemed pretty simple and straightforward but apparently we were mistaken.

What’s in a name

On one long run someone, I think Kendall Barber, mentioned she ran the Kids In Action 5km run — and noticed lots of the kids weren’t running in proper shoes. Clearly the only reasonable conclusion the collective had was that we needed to raise money to buy these kids shoes.

Instantly, the Type A personalities came alive and we started to figure out what that looked like, quickly recognizing the need to legitimize ourselves in order for people to rally behind us.

By legit, I mean, we went from being friends that ran together to having an identity — which for the record is a hare, not a rabbit, because hares are badass — and this my friends, was the start of the 24 Hour Treadmill Challenge and the River City Runners.

Some may think it was far more glamorous but rest assured, it was not. It was about raising money so kids could run.

Thanks to the Edmonton run community and our host location, Lululemon Whyte Avenue, we proudly raised over $30k for Kids In Action in our first year and were able to buy shoes for all the kids in need.

As we enter our fourth year of the event (and with over $100K of funds raised for various organizations), we continue to be grateful that we live in a city that rallies behind crazy ideas — including the Darkest Night— even if you didn’t know what RCR meant.

Growing pains

From the crews I have spoken with, growing pains are a natural occurrence. And RCR was no exception. For us, the biggest challenge was how did people join RCR. We were informal with no crew leader. We had more “founding members” than you have phalanges, which makes decision making difficult.

Our organization was simply a WhatsApp group where people shared their workouts and commitments to meeting at 6am. We were happy for new people to join, but creating an all-inclusive environment did not fully align with our “you can get dropped” mentality.

These aren’t meant to be excuses, we just didn’t even think about it. And to some degree, I am not sure we ever will. We love creating events, supporting those in need and want to run with whomever wants to run with us.

With all our growing pains, we were bound to see success, as well. I think a big one for us was learning how to communicate. Thanks to Owen Scandeng, we were introduced to the world of WhatsApp in an attempt to eliminate the someone showing up at Starbucks at 5:58 am only to run solo.

But outside of run logistics, we’ve had our share of tough conversations around “how do we grow”, “what does this mean going forward” and “what does commitment to RCR look like.” We have learned how to be honest with one another and recognize we won’t always agree but we came together and we will stick together.

That’s what crews do.

I am proud of what we have created, of the people that I get the privilege of sweating beside on a daily basis and the friendships I have formed.

Insert emotional content here

This group taught me the difference between running friends and friends that I run with. We help each other move, we are there to chat about our careers, families and relationships, we drink wine and beer together, we take trips together, we race together, and we are there for each other, no matter what the ask is.

But I am just one voice in this group and I think it’s important for you to hear what RCR means to a few other voices.

“It means running with friends of all ages, backgrounds, tax brackets, ethnicities and senses of humour. It’s a conversation about anything and everything. It’s an hour or two out of your busy life to connect with those who share the same love as you do, running.”

– Brendan Aireys

“RCR means friendships.”

– Kendall Barber

“RCR has always been a group of friends who run together. We train together, race together, and push each other to be better—not just on the road but in life. We share the common belief that running has the power to change lives—because it’s changed all of ours. Running is really just the beginning when it comes to RCR. It will always be the shared memories and accomplishments that will continue to define our crew.”

– Nick Keyko

RCR has showed me that running is much more than just running. Being apart of this crew has made me a stronger runner, has fuelled my competitive spirit and has brought me many new friends.”

– Jen Elliott

RCR to me is a support structure. A group of like-minded individuals who are competing for more than just participation ribbons. Friends that wake up at 6am to be with you, despite freezing temperatures, and motivate each other to achieve results, relieve some stress and live a healthier lifestyle.”

– Lucas Specht

— Erika Barootes

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