• UO Interviews: Three Run Two

    To anyone who's been to downtown Chicago, the digits "312" are sure to be familiar. But for the marathon runners and couch-to-5k beginners alike, the Chicago area code has been given a new spin in the form of Three Run Two, the Chicago running community that explores the city’s diverse landscape one group run at a time. Founded on the ideals of companionship and camaraderie, the group refrains from labeling itself a running "club". It's open to everyone and can often be seen "swarming" the Chicago street in groups of thirty or more. With fitness on the mind, we talked to founders Mica and Nico Bernal about the art of running and the benefits of training with a pack mentality. 
    Photos by David Jaewon Oh 

    Three Run Two looks like such great time. How did it come about? 
In January 2013, we created Three Run Two (a nameplay on Chicago’s area code, 312). The initial idea was to run a few laps around Humboldt Park in Chicago and socialize over beer and tacos at a local bar after. We had both been running for a few years at this point and  felt a need to close the gap between our friends that were runners and those that weren’t. From the beginning, our goal has been to make running accessible and exciting both online (through curated content via our social media channels) and in real life (through events and scheduled runs that are held several times a week, year-round).

    How many members are there now? 
    We’re not a traditional run club, we don’t do membership per se. There are no fees or barriers to entry in order to run with us. Our organized runs take place several times a week and our schedule is available online.  

    We run outside year round. We tend to get our largest turnout on Thursday nights. We consistently average upwards of 30 runners in the winter and 60 in the summer, conservatively speaking. 

    What sort of challenges did you face when getting Three Run Two started? How did you overcome them? 

    We’ve been completely self-run and independent since day one, which is a blessing and a curse. Because there’s only two of us, we’re able to come up with an idea and execute it quickly as well as handle any pressing issues that come up. But we also play all roles in the brand- from managing our social media channels, to hand-packaging all of our product, to even coding our own website. It’s a  full-time job and then some, but it’s our passion. We wouldn’t have it any other way. I will say this- Google has been our best friend in terms of teaching us how to do a lot of things the past few years!

    Three Run Two accommodates all levels of fitness and experience, how do you manage to be open to everyone while still benefiting the more elite runners? 
    Our ethos is that of not getting caught up in the, “How Fast, How Far?” mentality, although we all naturally judge ourselves by our running accomplishments from time to time. We find that our runners tend to be extremely competitive within themselves, always putting in the work in search of a new personal best, but still foster an environment that’s supportive of all levels. Because of the size of our community, runners of all strengths (both beginner and elite) tend to not have an issue finding a partner to run and or train with. Our runners truly enjoy spending time with each other, which lends well to the family-feel of the community.

    Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your backgrounds? 

    Academically and professionally, we both have backgrounds in Business (combined: Sales, Marketing, Product Development and Economics). Creativity-wise, we owe everything to our parents, who exposed us to the arts, culture and brought us up in a vibrant household that stressed the importance of being resourceful (working with what we had). We were always encouraged to look at common things in an uncommon way.

    When did you first start running? What does running bring to your life? 
    I first started running towards the end of 2009. At that point, I was happy being able to run a mile without stopping. Although I was an active kid—I swam, biked, skateboarded and played organized and pickup baseball and basketball all the time, running always seemed like a chore to me. 

    At my sister's behest, I signed up for an 8k shortly thereafter and began to train several times a week. I’ll never forget the feeling I had upon completing said race. I finished with a pace far better than anticipated and was on top of the world. I literally walked off the course and exclaimed that it was “the greatest day of my life.”

    I immediately caught the bug thereafter and went on to complete a race each month for the remainder of that year including my first Chicago Marathon. Fast forward 6 years and I’m proud to say that I’ve completed eight marathons, three 50k’s and many other races of various distances. Needless to say, I no longer view running as a chore and consider it very much a lifestyle.

    Running keeps me honest. I own each and every one of my performances and realize that you only ever get as much as you give. 'Til this day it's the far greatest return on my investment that I've ever received.

    What makes Three Run Two different from other running clubs? 
    At this point, we shy away from the term, “Running Club”. We refer to ourselves as a “Community”.  Running just so happens to be the vehicle that has brought so many kind, down to earth, and diverse people together. We support each other’s efforts and contribute to each others’ successes both on and off the field. Last but not least, we know how to have a good time. Ask about us. 

    What’s the benefit to group runs as opposed to running solo? 
    Have you ever ran down the middle of the street with 60 plus of your closest friends? It’s a blast to be part of and definitely a site to be seen. The other day someone mentioned that they saw us “swarm” down Palmer. 

    Aside from the experience, there’s the companionship and camaraderie that takes place. It’s nice to know that you never have to run alone unless of course you choose to, which is also nice by the way. Our runners frequently make plans to get together and run outside of our organized runs and that makes us feel good. 

    In regards to the camaraderie, there’s definitely something to be said about spending several days a week for the duration of 18 weeks with another person or group of people training for a marathon or any race for that matter. Breaking such a huge feat down and tackling it together is the epitome of team building. Toasting to each other’s successes and supporting each other during the lows is what it’s all about. 

    Can you tell us about the most difficult run you’ve ever been on? What about the best run you’ve ever been on? 
    The most difficult run that I’ve ever been on was my 3rd and last leg of a relay race that I was taking part in. 5 friends and I ran over 200 miles from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago in just under 24 hours. Each of my legs of the race were double digits. 

    My last leg took place at high noon on the second day of the relay. At this point I was sleep deprived, malnourished and just irritable all around. It was hot and humid and I had 12 miles on deck. 

    That day was a lesson in mind over matter. I used mantras, played mind games and did whatever I had to do to cover the distance. That was one run where I literally had to give it everything that I had to finish. 

    The best run that I’ve ever been on was last year’s Chicago Marathon. I was well rested, healthy and ready to set a new personal best. A friend of mine and I ran the entire duration of the race side by side and fed off of each others energy. We both finish within a second of each other with times of 3:35:40 and 3:35:41

    Any favorite Chicago routes? 
    My favorite routes happen to be our #blvds Thursday route in Logan Square and our long run Saturday routes on the lakefront. 

    Any advice for a beginner who’s trying to get into running? 

    Plain and simple, just get out there and run. We’ve received countless emails from people asking what our average distance/pace is in fear of not being experienced enough, but all athletes start off as beginners. Half-Marathoners, Marathoners, and Ultra-Marathoners don’t happen overnight. Everyone, regardless of athletic ability is capable of being a better version of themselves.

    What’s next for Three Run Two?
    We’re big on letting our actions speak for themselves so please stay tuned. In the meantime, please keep up with our current happenings on our website.

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