We started at Chucks Sports Bar in the Central Business District (the CBD) and Trey proclaimed “We’ve got 11 minutes to get to the ferry!” Unbeknownst to me, we were going to be taking the ferry to the West Bank. We sprinted down Canal Street, and caught the ferry just in time. During the five or so minute ride across the river, the group ran laps around the ferry as other passengers watched, took photos, and Snapchatted us.
This was my first run with the 504th running crew, where runners of all ages, backgrounds, races, and paces joined. Keeping up with their theme, “always go out”, the group gathered on Tuesday night, even though it was Thanksgiving week.
We arrived at Algiers Point, where we ran the levee to Federal City. (That night I learned that Federal City was launched as a bipartisan effort to save both the Navy and Marine bases from closing in New Orleans in 2005.) From Federal City, we did a quick loop back towards the ferry, but not without a quick beer stop at The Crown and Anchor, an authentic English Pub with a selection of beer that would please anyone’s palette.
We grabbed our beers, sprinted back up to the ferry, and enjoyed the ride as we crossed the Mississippi River back to downtown. An easy jog down Canal Street back to Chucks was all that separated us from our post-run beers. We ran through three neighborhoods of New Orleans on that run: the CBD, Algiers Point, and Federal City. That was the first time I’d ever taken that route. And I run a lot.
According to Trey Monaghan, one of the co-founders of the crew, their theme, “always go out”, means exactly what it sounds like: always show up, whether it’s rain or shine, hot or cold, a good day or a bad one.
When asked what sparked the interest to start The 504th, co-founder Monaghan says that he and the co-founders were inspired by a video posted by Bridge the Gap, a movement started by Mike Saes (of NYC’s Bridge Runners) and Charlie Dark (of London’s Run-Dem), that shines a light on urban street running.
Bridge the Gap was initiated to “bridge the gap” between where runners typically ran and where they didn’t dare to run. And that’s what Monaghan and co-captains Harold Dale, Lindsey Dennis, Denali Lander, and Marquest Meeks are doing in New Orleans. They believed that something was missing from the city in the running community.
“I’m a firm believer in being able to explore your city without any limitations,” Dale says. Too many times we have people not willing to go to another part of the city because they think it’s too ‘scary’ or ‘rough’. I enjoy not only running through these neighborhoods, but also interacting with the people that live there,” Dale says.
The 504th’s first run was recorded on December 16, 2016. In less than a year, the crew has run in every neighborhood in Orleans parish. Denali Lander, co-captain and executive director of Youth Run NOLA, says that the crew has helped her meet some of her personal goals which include running her first full marathon and completing her first ultra-marathon. Other members have met many of their personal goals as well, such as running their first road race ever, completing multi-sport events, and just running more because of the love and support from the crew.
As an avid runner, I would say that the 504th is a more accurate representation of the diversity of the running community in New Orleans. It was a beautiful showing of what I consider a true running community. You’ve got folks that train year round for ultramarathons (Nuts, right?). You’ve also got those who are there to do a casual 3 mile run, and those that are training and running everything in between.
Co-Captain Lindsey Dennis points out her reasons for showing up weekly, “I know I’m surrounded by motivated and inspiring people, who truly take an interest in me as a person — running just so happens to be a connecting point.”
This community has shown me parts of the city this local gal has never seen and introduced me to organizations that are doing incredible work: The Innocence Project (New Orleans), the Lower 9th Museum, and the Roots of Music, just to name a few.
The 504th Running Crew is unlike any other group running experience I’ve had – and I run a lot. I’ve run multiple races and marathons, including the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon, and the Louisiana Marathon. Before the 504th, I thought there wasn’t a part of the city I hadn’t run yet, but they’ve proved me wrong (twice now). The love for running and for the city that this group has is unmatched. Everyone runs with passion and no one cares about distance or pace, which is a breath of fresh air for me. The crew is about enjoying yourself and soaking up a piece of New Orleans history every Tuesday night. It has reignited my love of running.
If you want to check out the crew, just know that they start at “Hard 7,” which means they start at 7 p.m., sharp. The meeting spot is posted on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, before each Tuesday run. Ready to run?