Meet the Influencers Who Build Up Running Communities

This article originally appeared on Outside

Since there's no wrong way to run, that means there are only right ways. For proof, check out the following handful of athletes from a larger showcase of unique runners, who came to the sport from unconventional places. Their stories prove that running can be transformative in diverse ways--sparking creativity, balancing day-job demands, and uplifting others--but always pointing the same direction forward. For this trio of content-creating media influencers in particular, running helps them to connect with the key communities that keep them inspired to live and promote the sport’s greatest benefits.

Mallory Kilmer

The big-city organizer who creates local connections one member at a time.

Mallory Kilmer is an accomplished runner with two marathons and two Ironman 70.3 triathlons under her belt. But Kilmer's most cherished accomplishment might be the sense of community she has helped create through her New York City-based group, No More Lonely Runs, which welcomes runners of all paces and running levels every Saturday morning. Each week, Kilmer creates a video highlighting a different member of No More Lonely Runs, introducing that person to the group, which has grown into the hundreds, as a way to keep the thriving community grounded.

Kilmer No More Lonely
Kilmer, front row, with a recent No More Lonely Runs group. (Photo: courtesy Mallory Kilmer)

Kilmer knows firsthand how running can build better relationships. She was an active child and always saw her father training for marathons and triathlons. When Kilmer began running as an adult, the pursuit gave her a deeper understanding of her dad and a new way to bond. "Running is an amazing connection between my dad and I," Kilmer says, adding that when she moved to New York City, she leaned into running to help establish new connections, which led to forming No More Lonely Runs.

Mallory Kilmer
(courtesy Mallory Kilmer)

"I started a running club because I had just moved to NYC and didn't know anyone. I saw it as an opportunity to meet like-minded people and help others do the same," Kilmer says. "Every single day, this community motivates me to be my best self--in and out of my running sneakers."

Jordyn Milbrath

The competitor/creator who pushes limits across common trails.

Jordyn Milbrath enjoys "trucklife" as a nomadic athlete and media creator, living out of her Toyota Tacoma with her husband, Chase Willie, as they explore trails throughout the United States. This summer, the traveling couple raced the Cirque Series, mountain running events that pit trail runners against the steep slopes of popular ski resorts throughout the Rocky Mountains. But even though Milbrath isn't staying put, she still has roots. "The trails are where I've always found community," Milbrath says. "I find that the trail community really embraces everyone willing to do something that is uncomfortable, because we all know that it's a place for growth."

Jordyn Kilbrath
(courtesy Jordyn Milbrath)

In that collective discomfort, Milbrath finds critical support that helps her expand the limits of what she believes she's capable of accomplishing. (This year, it was completing her first season racing as a pro.) She also finds the fuel to keep pushing. "Seeing other athletes maximize their potential is what inspires me to find mine," says Milbrath, who helps strengthen this larger community of runners by creatively sharing her experiences training alongside and living outdoors among them.

"Everyone's goals are different," she adds, "and when we share those big dreams and are vulnerable with each other on the trails, it creates this safe space to go do something that scares you. And I find that really empowering."

Chase Willie

The nomadic creative who turns humble steps into inspired designs.

The other half of the Milbrath/Willie dynamic duo, Chase Willie is an accomplished mountain bike racer who has transitioned into a distance trail runner, traveling and running with his wife, Jordan Milbrath. The graphic designer by day grew up along Colorado's Front Range in a family that prioritized spending time outdoors, led by his mother, who has been an ultrarunner since she was in college. Between his mother and his wife, Willie doesn't have to look far to find community.

Chase Willie
(courtesy Chase Willie)

"I'm fortunate enough to be immediately surrounded by a group of inspiring female athletes," Willie says, noting his gratitude in having a family that doubles as both running community and support system when he's pursuing goals of his own--although, after a series of injuries had him questioning his motives, Willie now finds more pleasure in discovering new trails than podium finishes. Beyond competition, the unplugged act of running--moving through the environment at a slower pace--helps him creatively to process old ideas and generate new work endeavors.

"I'm really trying to appreciate every step I take," Willie says. "It's one thing to have a community that supports ambitious goals or ideas, but it's another thing to have a community that understands the why behind them. Having a community that relates to the importance of challenging tasks in the pursuit of personal growth is inspiring in itself."

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