GoldFinger Track Club with Jerry Francois
Photos by RCS Images
If you’re from the NYC area and a runner there’s a very good chance you’ve met Jerry Francois in Brooklyn NY and founder of GoldFinger Track Club (GFTC). Jerry is a staple in the tri-state run community as he’s not only known as one of the more established veteran runners in the community but also known for what he is and is continuing to do within our communities. There’s a quote I said a few issues back where NYRR “represents the run community solely based in Central park” but does not represent runners and their community efforts in the outer boroughs of NYC. Jerry and GFTC represents my home borough of Brooklyn NYC, let’s take a peek into Jerry and GoldFinger Track Club.
MSM: You’ve been an avid runner in the run community for years but let’s go back a bit further. What was running like for Jerry Francois prior to GFTC, prior to running, and all the run clubs? Was running something that you’ve always included in your lifestyle?
Jerry: God really put running right in front of me and took me 17 years to notice it. I played so many sports as a kid nothing really team but I was always outside playing. People always told me I was fast whether it was in football or basketball, I always had it in me. It took the death of my mother in high school to see I needed one sport to channel my pain but also help me release it and that was track. When I joined the track team late senior year I knew it was something for me and after one season, I knew I needed to see what I can do with it. When I ran in junior college I proved to myself that I belonged in running. Within 2 years I became 2x all American in 4×4, 4×8 won a cross country championship and several medals and MVPs. I knew running was my new happy place because I felt closer to my mom while doing it and I felt free doing it.
MSM: How did your run journey begin. What were those early races like early on? What was that moment where you said or knew that this was something that was going to remain consistent for you?
Jerry: It had to be in my freshman year in college. In my first cross practice I wanted to quit because I wasn’t use to this distance and it sucked. In my first race at Van Cortlandt Park I wanted out but after the first race, I earned a medal and placed. I couldn’t believe it but I knew I could be way better if I stoped complaining and remembered why I started running consistently. Eventually, my coach pulled me to the side at one practice and told me I could be the best runner on his team. The fact that he had that much confidence in me meant a lot and from there I never looked back. I wanted to be the best and at the cross country championship where I became the best on my college team in distance. My first college season was spent earning my spot and place on the team and I fought at every practice and race to earn my spot. I went from a 58-second 400-meter runner to a 51-second anchor leg in the relay by outdoor season. Mind you this is just one year in college sports eventually gaining respect from my peers and teammates which made me want it so much more.
MSM: From what I’ve noticed in the past and present running for you gives you a sense of joy, freedom, passion, and genuine love that you not only have for yourself but also spreads to others that you run with. For our readers take us through some of these passions and feelings for you when it comes to running.
Jerry: I’ve told everyone running is free therapy as running can take you anywhere in the world and more. Running has become the most powerful tool in the last 5 years as the sport has gotten bigger and faster, it’s a whole lifestyle. We’re using running to bring awareness to America’s issues and racism with running being that platform. Now you’re more eager to join a run crew or club because now you know there’s a bigger meaning than a race. We’re focusing on the bigger marathon of change. That’s what I love about it, the change we need in our community through sports and more.
MSM: These feelings translate to others so easily and which also leads to other runners in the community with a desire to always run or train with you. This takes us into the next question GoldFinger Track club. Tell us about the inception of GFTC and what went into creating this run club within the community.
Jerry: It’s funny because GFTC was randomly created. One day I was introduced to The Night at the Armory race in 2015 from my job at flatiron. When I got a chance to race the armory again after 4 years it felt so refreshing. In 2016 a month before the night of the races I reached out to my old college teammates about the race and some of the new runners I met in the community. When entering for the race they asked for a team name. I had no idea and I needed to think of one on the fly. A few weeks prior I just started my streetwear brand called GoldFinger I wanted to connect that with what I’m doing right now so GoldFinger track club was formed. Once we raced that race and won our heat we got so much praise and love and I couldn’t believe it. From there I knew GoldFinger track club has to be real, where it’s crew that allows anyone to be apart of it and still run with others. From there I said GFTC is the safe place for any runners looking for a home.
MSM: One of our previous spotlights Gerardo of Team Wepa said it best “WE ALL SHOULD HAVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE”. Run communities that we see in other publications and what we see represented on race courses are not a full representation of us. So when there are things that are discussed and solutions are made it’s usually made without the full understanding and scope of that decision. One of the benefits of run clubs with proper representation of us is it all gives us a voice to represent each other as we’re all fighting the same fight. What are some of the pillars of GFTC things that members learn when they are joining?
Jerry: We started showing up and showing out at few races that gave us bigger buzz, races like The Red Hook Crit and the Brooklyn Half. Everyone saw us as the new rebels of the running community because we were fast, fly and cool. We brought new energy to the community and since then people love our vibes and we been rolling with brands that help push our mission to connect to more and more people. Nike gave us our first ad in 2018 and we’ve been blessed ever since.
MSM: Along with proper representation also comes with educating others on our history inside and outside of running. You’ve been able to educate through running hosting a variety of runs and events. Take us though some of the group runs that focus more on educating our own about our communities.
Jerry: Last year I started taking a different route with running. After attending several Black Lives Matter protests and all that was happening with the Amaud Aubry, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor cases, I wanted to bring that awareness because I need people to understand that I am a black man, and WE are black men & women that go through this every day. I wanted to start with Juneteenth and didn’t know that in a pandemic it would turn out that 500 plus people wanted to connect, share and celebrate what I had to say. I was happy to connect with J-Sole and Joe Shayne to help make this first step of change to come to the running community. From there I wanted to focus on different topics every month until my son was born then create smaller runs with the same impact because of covid.
MSM: Speaking of group runs GFTC hosts a variety of weekly runs. For those that are interested in joining where can we meet up with the crew to get a few good miles in?
Jerry: We run every Wednesday at boys and girls track at 6:30 am, Thursday night at 7 pm at 213 Stuyvesant ave. We do long runs once a month and special runs highlight Black-owned businesses all around Brooklyn.
MSM: Going back on the topic of events The Blk Mile. A one-mile event hosted by GFTC. We tend not to see many run events that are hosted for us by us. What went into putting this event together? What are the chances that we see a larger race put on by GFTC, possibly 5k, 10k, or any larger races in the future?
I’ve told everyone running is free therapy as running can take you anywhere in the world and more. Running has become the most powerful tool in the last 5 years as the sport has gotten bigger and faster, it’s a whole lifestyle. We’re using running to bring awareness to Americas issues and racism with running being that platform.
Jerry: We wanted to create a race for the people where it would be for the Black and brown community in Brooklyn as I wanted us to feel as special and important. It was a huge success even with covid and all the guidelines we were able to put on a race like that in our neighborhoods with no sponsorships. Crazy enough I wanted to name the race the Jaxx mile named after my son but I changed with the goal to see and name another race, the Jaxx 5k in 2025. I would like to create and host more races all year round if I can afford it. I’ve started to like creating races better than running them. It would be a great way to retire from competing and start creating races for people to compete at. This is where I’m at. I’m excited about what the future holds. Already plotting for the Blk mile 2 which will be in September of this year.
At the end of April Jerry and GoldFinger track club put together a community relay race for many of the NYC run clubs in his home borough of Brooklyn NY. A fun energetic day filled with runners doing what we love most running. Jerry has continued to support his community through efforts such as this one and continues to be a beacon for the local and national run community. Some of the events included the 4×200, 400m, The Mile, kids dash, 200, 800 4×400 and 10k relays. The event which took place on a beautiful Brooklyn spring morning/afternoon went off perfectly furthermore encompassing the work and efforts that Jerry has done within the community.
MSM: GFTC Relays, you mentioned earlier that track and field is where you essentially you began to find your love for running. When you created the GFTC relays what were some of your thoughts and goals with creating such an event? In essence, this can be a game changer in our community as it’s a breath of fresh air to run team/relay events rather than the standard road races.
Jerry: When I came up with the idea of GFTC relay it was inspired by The Penn relays which was one of my favorite track meets to compete at in college and also watch live. Since I knew Penn relays was canceled again and my old college team couldn’t run together again because covid last year I knew this year if I wanted to connect my old crew and my new crews together I needed to create my own relay to make that happen. GFTC was relay based off a relay we did at the armory in 2016 so it was must to do something of my own this year, but also tie it into something so much bigger like crew vs crew because like The Penn relays it was all about the best of best schools and pros running one big stadium. I wanted to bring that fire and that competitive spirit I have when it comes to racing, I know theres a lot of crews who are fast but “who’s”running the fastest? That’s what I wanted to know. My biggest goal is to bring all running crews together in a safe space post pandemic and really bond with each other and celebrate our cultures coming together. It’s been a whole year with not seeing most crews and everyone been stuck staying in their own communities and I wanted us to introduce the new running community that was build for our solidarity runs to our small group runs. I’m just super thankful that god has allowed me to put this together and thankful for the help and support I’ve gotten from my entire crew Gemma, Ping, sashah, Chris and Thomas just to name a few. Of course my family Ash and Jaxx because without their support I can’t do anything. They all got and more!!! Look out for our next big run for Juneteenth.
MSM: 2020 was one of the most difficult years not due to the pandemic but the mental health and well-being of the Black community. One thing we tend to do is internalize those feelings, especially Black men. You’re continuing to break that mold especially through running as you’re also using running to voice your feelings and protest. Mentally how difficult has it been these past few years seeing all of the social injustices and how have you kept the conversations going through running?
Jerry: Honestly I was so numb to things as it started to feel almost normal. Like I’m supposed to be harassed when I run, I’m supposed to be looked at when I run. Everything felt like I didn’t deserve to have the privileges to run until I said forget that, this is my city and this is my community and I need to start remembering that. I had to get mentally get back to knowing I deserve respect as any white runner does especially in my neighborhood. I created the movement black miles matter based on the loss of Ahmaud Aubrey. I wanted that to be a statement beyond hashtags because we will never forget his last mile and how important it was. We will forever know that our miles when we run them, matter. It’s just important bigger issues in our communities, so we discuss these issues in the community at every run that we do and more. #blackmilesmatter always!!!
MSM: You’re also a superhero. Not one with superpowers but simply a dad. When you become a dad there’s something in your mind that changes which makes you stronger, makes you fight harder, makes you want to create change to make things better for our little ones. What were some of your feelings when you became a father?
Jerry: I literally have a legacy, one that I wanna be a part of and be proud of at the same time fatherhood has been the best hood I ever joined and I recommend anyone who joins this club takes pride in the title.
MSM: You’re always getting stroller miles in, do you see a future track star in your little guy? At some point, stroller miles will turn into trying to keep up with ‘you’ miles (lol).
Jerry: Yeah but I like to give him the options as I don’t want to pick the sport for him I would want him to make that decision. I didn’t choose running, running choose me and I want it to be the same for Jaxx. I actually would like him to play soccer something different that teaches him a lot of technical skills and teamwork. But if he is choosing to run then I know he will be the fastest before the age of 10.
MSM: Seeing various run clubs and logos there’s a few that stand out. One of those logos is yours. The name and logo. Where did GoldFinger originate from and what is the meaning of the logo and the finger on the nose?
Jerry: It was inspired by an old college teammate of mine Kaydon who was always digging his noses even at the big meets on camera. His self-care made me wanna create something so different where if digging our nose for gold is the most normal way to live then so be it. Then it got deeper and because it’s a symbol that brought a positive light to people’s lives. Because of who I am I try to spread that in everything I do. Spread positively in all light. Our buddy Juan who we know designs at Nike and created the logo based on the clothing brand. Keeping the finger but adding lighting because people always claimed I was the flash because of how fast I was. So I wanted GFTC to stick out like that. Giving a track club with a club that wasn’t really running on the track.
MSM: Going completely off topic. One sneaker-head ALWAYS recognizes the other especially when it comes to Jays. What’s your top 3 Jays and top 3 runners?
Jerry: I love sneakers so that’s easy. Going from 1 to 3. 1 being the highest.
- 1. Air jordan 3
- 1. Air jordan 1
- air max 90
Runners top 3
- Vaporfly next percent
- Flyknit racers
- Any Pegasus range from 32-37 (with the exception of the Peg 36)
MSM: What does the future hold for GoldFinger track club? How can our readers follow and keep up with GFTC?
Jerry: We’re working on a website so people can see our program other than Instagram. We would like to host 3-4 races a year as we have a few races coming up already GFTC relay is May 2nd, Our Juneteenth 1 year anniversary run, Beer mile in July, Black August/ mile for change 2. The Blk mile 2 in September and so much more. We wanna keep tapping in with the community and the culture as we’re going to share and celebrate a lot while also remembering all that we’ve lost while expressing the importance of Black lives and Black miles.
MSM: Any last words you’d like to share with our readers?
Jerry: I like to tell everyone to follow who you believe in don’t follow the clout, follow the change. Be a part of a community that represents you or create your own. We have a lot of leaders but not many are building the next leaders. It’s about our youth how we pass on what we did in 2020 so they can do it in 2040. GFTC way is the only way.