Good Vibes Track Club are running South Central
In Los Angeles, a city spanning more than 500 square miles, the cameras and limelight only extend so far. Left out of the tour books and away from the red carpets, most neighborhoods live in the shadows of the silver screen, quietly strengthening and providing a much-needed realness to the City of Angels. And, of these neighborhoods, there’s no better example than the Crenshaw District in South Central LA. It’s there that the Good Vibes Track Club (GVTC) calls home.
On a typical Thursday evening, 20 or so runners congregate on the sidewalk outside of WOOD, an upscale pizza spot on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake. As the evening’s diners order their Khachapuri Wood-Fired pizza, the runners stand just outside the restaurant’s heated patio catching up and doing some light stretching. Marvin ‘Marv’ Garcia, co-founder of Good Vibes, rolls up a couple minutes later, says what up, and gives a quick run down of the day’s workout - a 2k hard and 8 hill repeats.
This isn’t the group’s usual meetup spot and, in fact, a Thursday Tempo session is a relatively new addition to the crew’s weekly training schedule. Marv explains, “We’ve always been about the track. Since we started 3 years ago, we’ve met almost every Tuesday at Rancho Cienega Track in Crenshaw. But, as we’ve grown and everyone’s gotten faster, we needed to add tempos to get everyone to the next level.” That’s the nature of GVTC; learning, evolving, and ever-improving.
"I love that our home base is on Obama & La Brea - it's a little gritty, but so are we. I think by running here it shows runners that this is an essential part of the city, and hopefully encourages locals to get out and sweat too."
The group’s founding members aren’t formal coaches but they’re students of the sport, quick to ask a question and try something new, and humble enough to know when it’s time to go back to the drawing board. In building this team, Marv and the others found guidance and mentorship in Knox Robinson, the leader of NYC’s Black Roses. The two grew closer through their shared vision of connecting urban communities, the pursuit of PR’s, and tapping into running as a form of expression. Knox and Marv are constantly going back and forth about training, developing a program for those willing to show up, dedicate themselves, and be a teammate to others.
And what they’re doing is working. Talk with any member of the team and they’ll tell you that Good Vibes has helped them unlock their potential - members have qualified for Boston, ran the country’s best marathon’s en masse, and completed formerly unfathomable workouts. Noel Velasco, a longtime Good Vibes member, is currently training for his first 100 miler, the AC100.
But, you’d be remiss to attribute this uptick in performance solely to the training. Good Vibes sets themselves apart with their non-stuffy inclusivity, diverse members, and engagement with the community in which they’re based. Priscilla Aurora, a special education teacher from Woodland Hills, puts it best, “so many running groups have their own flavor and culture, but what I love about Good Vibes is how inclusive they are - non judgemental, elitist, or exclusive, but also very disciplined and competitive.”
The team’s diverse background is one of its greatest assets. Culturally, professionally, geographically, and athletically, people come to the group from a range of backgrounds. On this topic, Priscilla says, “It’s inspiring to see people from all walks of life be so accepting of one another’s different cultural backgrounds and beliefs, especially in the midst of such a divisive political world.” And just as members from the group make up a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, their running goals are just as diverse. Marv explains that Good Vibes doesn’t draw a line at a certain speed or PR, they draw their line at commitment.
“If you’re down to put in the work and uplift those around you, there’s a place for you at Good Vibes.”
Kyle Awtry, an apparel product developer and founder of Sauri, only started running after joining Good Vibes. Now, his eyes are set on qualifying for Boston and the support he receives from his teammates is integral in getting him there. He admits, “I can start a workout and want to quit less than half way through, but the motivation of my teammates always pushes me to finish. And, man, that feeling of accomplishment is addictive.”
The group warms up by running to the Silver Lake Loop, a man-made reservoir and popular place of recreation for the neighborhood. With a dog park, several basketball hoops, and cinder loop circumnavigating the green space, the park is bustling despite it being a chilly LA winter evening (approx. 50 degrees). The warm up paces vary and the group has separated a bit by the time they reach the de facto starting point. After some dynamic stretching and strides, the group naturally falls into loose pace groups.
As the first group prepares to start, the energy is unlike that of most training groups leading up to a hard 2k. It’s casual yet deliberate. Comfortable yet aspiring. Without being overly boisterous or saccharine, the supportiveness is palpable. Regarding this casual stoicism, Marv says, “We see each other every week, usually multiple times, and we talk about what we’re trying to accomplish. So if you’re here, we know you’re doing what you need to do.” For GVTC, the support doesn’t need to be over dramatized or drawn out. A pre-rep fist bump or “nice work” between oxygen-short breathes is enough.
"We see each other every week, usually multiple times, and we talk about what we’re trying to accomplish. So if you’re here, we know you’re doing what you need to do."
With the 2k done, the group reforms at the base of Duane Street, a long residential street complete with what must be a 30 degree incline. Again, without many words or the splitting of a watch, the first of 8 reps is attacked. While the paces differ, the intensity does not. Everyone is pushing.
The workout concludes where it began, WOOD, with the now sweaty and accomplished runners circling up for some closing remarks. Marv isn’t the only one to talk. In fact, he stands to the side and lets the others address the unit. Despite starting the crew, Marv is careful to not call it his own. To him, GVTC is as much the group as it is the attitude. Everyone who shows up has a voice and no one voice is louder than the next.
Some of the crew splits off and heads home, but most roll over to Diablo for some tacos, a beverage, and to chop it up. Over shared chips and guac and hilariously terrible stand-up comedy. The group talks about where they’ve come from and where they want Good Vibes to go. But, the group didn’t always have this much direction or foresight. For most of the 3 years since its inception, Good Vibes has essentially been 50-80 friends meeting up for a track workout.
As a self-proclaimed sneakerhead looking to get in shape, Marv was initially drawn to LA’s urban run crews in 2015. He became a regular at Nike Run Club events and his appetite for miles kept growing to the point that he signed up for his first LA marathon. But, after NRC stopped meeting a few short months before the marathon, Marv knew his training needed to persist. So, he kept running. And his friends joined him.
The handful of ex NRC members started meeting on Tuesdays in the Crenshaw District. Growing up in the area, Marv knew of the Rancho Cienega Track in Hillside Park and that using it wouldn’t be an issue. The track was underutilized and unknown to practically all non-locals. And, as Marv puts it, the locals weren’t doing much running.
“Before us, nobody was running in South Central. Running was for people in Santa Monica and Pasadena, not people south of the 10.”
But now, since GVTC started meeting there, the community has taken notice. People from the neighborhood who knew Marv growing up but have never ran before started asking about the crew. This sense of community engagement is important to the whole team and contributes to their unpretentiousness.
"From the very beginning it was different - people just running and pushing each other to get better...the running is pure, no BS, no ego. Just people running for themselves and for one another, that's why I keep coming back."
Ray Munoz, O.G.
The word didn’t just stay in the Crenshaw, people from all over LA started showing up at the track. So Marv just rolled with it and, before the end of the year, the group that started as four friends had grown to over 30, with most people training for the marathon. So, with the LA marathon quickly approaching and the majority of the team registered, the group decided it was time to take on a name. Marv explains, “Good Vibes Track Club. People always said that about us. They said, ‘you guys are different. It’s just good vibes’.” So, just as naturally as the group began, the name was created and the first singlets were printed.
Since that first LA marathon, GVTC has been anything but static. It’s continued to grow, with most track sessions attracting over 80 runners and weekly tempos and long runs being added to the training routine. The big turn out doesn’t stop at practice; this past fall, 20 or so members of GVTC flew out to compete in the Chicago Marathon and spread their stoke with all those on the course.
As GVTC continues to grow in their fourth year, one thing will remain constant - Good Vibes will continue to be different. Good Vibes started in the Crenshaw District without a grand vision, much prior experience, or a hard and fast plan. And, like the neighborhood itself, GVTC operates away from the flicker of fame, deliberately working toward self improvement, 3 days each week, every week. In a city where people’s daily driver is a Bentley, fame and fortune fills the dreams of many, and the only thing that stands still is the 405, the Crenshaw District and Good Vibes Track Club are real, genuine, and ever-developing.