Three Masterminds and a mission to change a community can truly create a movement. “Run This Town” was started by Shawn Blanchard, Terrence J.L. Thompson and Armond Harris. It is a networking and exercise group (they coined the term “networkingout”) that is transforming lives, connecting people, and creating a grassroots movement that is meant to facilitate networking through fitness and fitness through networking. It is their mission to fight urban obesity by promoting fitness through healthy lifestyles. The idea came as the gentlemen were in the process of sustaining their personal exercise regime.
With busy schedules many people put exercise on the back burner. This was true for Blanchard, a student at Wayne State University Law School. “When I was living in New York and running the math department at a school in the Bronx I noticed my weight got away from me,” he said. He decided to try the P90X exercise program and lost 23 pounds. “This turned my lifestyle of fitness around.” After living in New York for five years, earning his master’s in Secondary Math Education and working in the industry, the Mackenzie High School graduate decided to return home to Detroit. During his first year of law school, with the heavy schedule of studying and involving himself in extracurricular academic activities, he noticed his weight increasing. He started to make exercise a priority again and started running with friends.
It was one day this year during a run that he and Thompson came up with the idea of starting a group. They asked Harris to join and Run This Town was born. What started as a Facebook post by Harris created a group of 30 people the first week, growing to 50 the second week and the numbers grew from there.
Thompson also understood the stress of balancing exercise and the demands of both being a law student and attorney. “I was never a fitness guru, but during my first year of law school I gained 20 pounds,” he said. With the demands of studying and his strong involvement in academic organizations such as being the president of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) at Wayne State Law School and formerly holding a chair position in the National Mid-West BLSA, he saw his exercise was not a priority. He started to make changes such as running or walking to class and going to the gym on campus. He lost about 30 pounds during his first and third year of law school. After graduating in 2008 he worked at Miller Canfield and then began to work at the U.S Attorney’s Office. “I could see my schedule opening up a bit so I started to create time to exercise,” he said. He has dropped 17 pounds since the beginning of the running season this year.
With understanding the importance of creating a healthy future, Harris works as a grants coordinator. His job is to allocate the proper amount of funds for food departments so students can have a healthy school lunch. Presently he is working with Inkster, Saginaw and Hamtramck. Always having an athletic heart, Harris played on the Wayne State University football team. “Many of my friends asked me how to stay in shape,” he said. The three gentlemen are elated to see Detroiters excited about health and connecting with one another.
Run This Town is a free group that meets every Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. and every Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at the Rivard Plaza on the RiverWalk. “When people show up we are making sure that we are encouraging them to network with others,” said Blanchard. After the networking, the exercise begins. “There are three groups, walkers, joggers, and runners. Within the 20 minutes of networking people are so warm they are already comfortable with each other. After the walk/jog/run, we continue the exercise by running the hill. We also incorporate a circuit workout that includes abs and strength training. Once the workout is over, we network again.” This has created lasting friendships and memories. “There are many members who just met and we think they’ve been friends for years,” said Thompson. “It is great to see all different people and professions merge with different people and projects.” The networking is an important component and businesses are beginning to notice. Due to the heat on a recent Tuesday, Premium Lounge in Detroit allowed the group to conduct their circuit training in the venue. Thompson is presently working on growing the model so the group can continue indoor workouts for the winter.
A run with friends created a vision within the city of Detroit. The date was May 8, 2012 and what humbly started as a group of friends getting together to work out and invite others became a supportive and empowering group of Detroiters wanting to make a change for themselves and their city. “We want to change what people think about Detroit, it was great to hear that one of our members, who previously felt as if there was nothing to do in the city, came to Run This Town, and she was hooked. She told us this was exactly what she was looking for,” said Thompson. Along with this member and many others, all three of the gentlemen have seen transformations in people who have joined.
One member realized that running outside is not as difficult as he thought. “I love Run This Town because it encourages a healthy lifestyle and also gives you a chance to meet some amazing people. I always thought running outdoors would be too difficult for me. However, that first day out I found that it wasn’t so bad,” said Morgan McDonald. “The time seems to go by faster because we run through downtown and there are plenty of visual distractions. Before you know it, you have completed half the route. It helps that you run with others because everyone is very encouraging. We start together and finish together….no one left behind. Shawn, Terrence and Armond make the circuit training fun as well. No matter your fitness level, Run This Town is for everyone and I encourage anyone to come out.”
Along with the mission of fighting urban obesity, each of the gentlemen is well involved with the people in the community. Serving as mentors as well as advocates for education and leadership, they are setting strong examples by living a life of service. “We want to grow the mindsets of people in Detroit. There are many young professionals in this town that get together and work out. We are encouraging greatness throughout the city of Detroit.”