Chicago's original run crew are stronger than ever
When talking about running in Chicago, it’s hard to look past Three Run Two, a diverse and inclusive crew from Chicago's west side. In fact, outside of New York, Three Run Two were one of the first ‘big’ run crews, and they’re still living large today.
Started in 2012 by siblings Micaela and Nicolas Bernal, Three Run Two was born to provide something for runners in their neighborhood - the lakefront being typically where run groups were meeting at the time, which is cool, but it’s not accessible for everyone. Thus, Three Run Two was started.
“We kicked things off in December 2012 by sending an email to friends and family members about our idea. We leveraged the New Year as a selling point and encouraged everyone to attend our group run which would be followed by a social hour at a neighborhood bar. To our surprise, people actually showed up despite the frigid temperature and wind-chill.”
Fast forward to 2019, huge numbers turn out for 4 weekly group runs, as well as special events before, during and after the Chicago Marathon each year.
Thursday nights see the group meet outside Merchant, a sleepy local bar across from a small town square and park. From there they head out for their #blvds runs - typically threshold or tempo session on the wide, tree lined boulevards surrounding Logan Square. Most nights following the session it’s refreshments of any variety and laughs back at the bar before heading off into the night. There’s also a Tuesday night run on the South Side of Chicago, hosted by Rick Diaz.
Although formed around the peak of urban run crews and quickly rising to notoriety, Nico and Micaela (who’s also a talented photographer and the main photographer of the group) describe themselves as a ‘community’ rather than a club or crew. From the outside looking in, it’s hard not to feel the energy of the group and appreciate this difference when they show up.
For anyone unfamiliar with the climate in Chicago, it’s unrelenting, from stunning summer days to deep cold winters, with days on end below freezing. Despite this the crew runs year-round, and are known for never cancelling a run, come sun, rain, sleet or snow. Each week they’ll host around 100 runners - maybe more, depending on the season.
Seattle based photographer David Oh has been shooting with Three Run Two for years, “their Thursday run brings out everyone in the community - from someone who can easily win his/her age group races, to a family of four who just likes to move. I think that's what makes them special; Three Run Two is one giant family.”
Nico echoes this sentiment, “we don't define ourselves solely by speed or distance- We are a decidedly diverse crew that celebrates each other's differences. We break bread and personal records while striving to be good sports both on and off the field.”
Speaking of off the field, Three Run Two’s post marathon party is the stuff of legend. Each year, they host what might be the best post-marathon party in the world, with 500+ runners from all backgrounds showing up. Simply, if you’re in Chicago on marathon weekend, whatever else you do while you’re in town, the Three Run Two party is a must (Ed - we’ll see you there).
“Logan Square Auditorium turns into a hub where everyone is congratulating each other for what they have accomplished just a few hours ago. It's loud and happy...
I don't even know how people can find all the extra energy to party that hard after running the marathon but people show out.”
The run crew world can be a fast-paced, blink-and-you-miss-it type of place, with new crews and new movements starting all the time. So why is it that Three Run Two have managed to not only stick around so long, but thrive, and become the centre of Chicago running on Marathon Sunday?
Funnily enough I spoke to TEMPO co-founder, Andy Sargent, about his experiences with the group.
“Having spent time around 3Run2, what strikes you is their warmth and their realness. They race, they go hard and they party, but it’s always with a smile and that unmistakable Chicago grace. Nico, Michaela and their family are genuinely proud of their people and their city and love sharing it with people.”
So as you race through the streets of Chicago this weekend, even before you pass through the Three Run Two cheer zone at Mile 20, know that there is much more to running in this city than the marathon. Long after the barriers come down and guests check out of their hotels, Three Run Two will be here, providing a place for everyone.