runCLE: Exploring downtown through running

by hhf3

Background: I signed up a few weeks ago to be a City Advocate for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCA), who is the downtown improvement corporation for the business improvement district downtown. Phew, that’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo, eh? Well, a business improvement district is a special area that decides to get together, tax themselves an extra amount, and use those monies to provide services to that area. Those services can include street cleaning, safety ambassadors, marketing, etc., and the downtown improvement corporation administers the whole shebang. In an effort to court young professionals, the DCA set up an innovative program where you can sign up to a “City Advocate” where one does about 20 actions of varying levels to promote downtown. You can find more information here, as well as a new way to stalk your favorite Furmanator. The carrot being dangled in front of us is a potential position on the board for the DCA… clutch, eh? My end goal is not to be on the board; rather, it is to promote downtowns because I believe in them, in any city. Having watched my home city turn itself around, I know Cleveland’s can, too. I might not be a wealthy developer or heck, even a planner for the city, but I can do my little part. Always leave a place better than when you got there, right?

My first idea is to start a running group downtown. This idea stems from a few sources. After a discussion with the City of Cleveland’s bike planner, I discovered the Cleveland Clinic has a lunchtime cycling group where they meet once a week to bike around. I had also recently done a search looking for a running club/tri club practices/master’s swim team based either in the Heights area of Cleveland (where I live) or downtown (where I work and attend school). It was a fruitless search. I’m still training mostly on my own. I did find a swim team, but then my work schedule changed completely. All the group runs or practices were far out in the suburbs. Donuts, anyone? I also see a lot of people running downtown during the lunch hour. Something clicked between these three influences, and of it my brainchild was born: runCLE. (This name is not set in stone, but my “clever” side seems to be still on vacation). 
At first I thought it would be as easy as saying “downtown runners, meet in front of Tower City at noon on Wednesdays and we’ll run together.” Ha. The practical side of me realized people run at different paces, I’d need to lay out routes (and at what distances?) ahead of time, and how on earth do I get runners to show up? An email to the group of fellow City Advocates illuminated another problem: the post-run shower. I’m a spoiled brat at my internship: we have a shower/locker area in our office. This is clearly not the case at most places. Luckily, someone came up with a brilliant idea to combat the shower problem, we just have to flesh it out first. 
As for the routes… that might be an easy problem to solve. I explore cities through running; hence, I’d like the routes to feature Cleveland landmarks. I also make maps for a living, so mapping won’t be too hard. Plus I could always utilize or Google Maps. An excellent suggestion was to end the runs at non-sit-down lunch places (Subway versus Applebees) where runners can grab a quick bite before heading back to the office. 
As for different pace groups… that’s where the maps come in. We can take a minute or two to sort out pace groups before starting, and give small maps out (think photocopied quarter sheets of paper). 
As for getting the word out… social networking! Facebook, twitter, the DCA blog, a new blog for the running group, press releases, word of mouth. Emails to those suburb-based running and multisport clubs (some of their employees have got to work downtown!). 
So here’s to runCLE, and here’s to hoping I didn’t bite off more than I can chew.