Connect Run Build with WeRun313 founders Joe Robinson & Lance Woods.
Over the past three months, we’ve been bringing you stories from Detroit run crew We Run 313. So you may have noticed that this club has birthed some of the most steady and consistent runners from run streakers that have been running for close to two years to steady BQs from the most recent Glass City Marathon. One of the premier run clubs in Detroit, the We Run 313 crew has not only shown out at recent races but most of all have created change in their communities by using running as a tool to do promote health and wellness. So it’s only right we close this chapter with the founders of We Run 313: Joe Robinson and Lance Woods. Let’s take a peek into this run crew, their mission, their goals, and most importantly, their why’s.
MSM: Fellas welcome to Mid Strike! We’re excited to chat with both of you as We Run 313, from what I’ve seen over the past year, has grown tremendously. Before we get into the when, why and how We Run 313 crew was created let’s get a peek into just who Joe and Lance are.
Joe is a lifelong resident of Detroit, Michigan raised on the East Side. He graduated from Ferndale public schools and attended Wayne State University. By the age of 18, he pursued music which became his passion. As the founder of APX Management, LLC Joe has a 10-year career in music/talent management, event production, studio management, and tourist management. He managed and produced acts across the nation under APX Management, LLC. He has always been adamant about challenging himself to go further in his personal life. Joe began running in 2015 while visiting Los Angeles, CA. In late 2018, he began to take it seriously at the Detroit Free Press Marathon Health & Fitness Expo, where he registered for his first race. Since then he’s participated in several major events around the country and raced in many USATF certified courses with several podium finishes. Most recently he completed a marathon with a personal best of 3:06:19. Running provides him a sense of achievement and self-gratitude that you can’t get from anywhere else.
Lance was born and raised on the West Side of Detroit, Michigan, and educated through Detroit public schools. He is a proud graduate of Northwestern High School. He went on to study at Tennessee State University earning a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Supply Chain Management in 2012. In 2014, he decided to leave Nashville, TN and the supply chain industry behind to pursue his passion for community and youth development. Lance served as an educator at Cody High School in Detroit for five years, and currently is a Project Manager at Life Remodeled, a community development organization. He has the innate ability to connect and serve disadvantaged communities through story-telling, relationship building, and strategic goal setting. Lance is a member of several organizations including Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, Northwestern Alumni Association, Tennessee State University Alumni Association, Coleman A. Young Foundation, and Black Male Engagement (BMe), and has received several awards for his civic engagement. Lance began running in 2015 and could barely complete a mile. Since then he has participated in several races around the country and most recently set a personal best and Boston Marathon Qualifying time of 2:49:48. For him running provides the spiritual space to break through barriers of doubt, which develops into mental toughness.
MSM: I’m sure most folks know you as the founders of We Run 313 but what was run life like for the both of you prior to 313. You both are consistent and steady runners. When and where did your run journeys begin?
Lance: My running journey began in 2015 and I struggled with completing a mile. Running didn’t even make sense to me. I never understood why people would want to run. The only reason I was out there was because I was helping a friend with his Sweaty September initiative to get people back actively moving. I would run a mile or two and promote and engage others via social media. I didn’t get relatively consistent until about 2017.
Joe: My journey running began in 2015. I was staying short term in LA for my first visit. The weather and healthy food options was a culture shock to me as I was coming from Detroit in the dead of winter. I was inspired by this change and decided to try running for the first time
MSM: We all have our reasons for running, which at times can be extremely different from person to person. For the both of you give us some of your reasons as to why running became something consistent, became a lifestyle for the both of you.
Lance: Running became consistent for me in 2017 because it was the only time alone I had to filter through some of the challenging things I was dealing with at the time and just a reminder to keep going. Every time I went for a run, I felt better. Every time I challenged myself to go further, I felt accomplished by what I had done. I completed my first race ever which was a 10k and came in 2nd place overall, 1st place age group. A week later I completed my first half marathon at the Detroit Free Press race. From there I wanted to travel and earn medals around the world. That was the start of a new hobby for me. Also, many of my friends that live out of state were active and we were holding each other accountable via social media running, posting, and tagging each other.
Joe: Initially running intrigued me simply because it made me sweat harder than I ever did. This felt new and different. I felt like I was releasing things in my body that had been there my whole life. When I became more consistent in my efforts, then I started to feel differently in my mind. I had anxiety and mild depression and the constant running helped me filter through my thoughts and my own voice in my head and it was a voice of clarity.
MSM: We love to highlight the stories of our runners outside of running. Both of you have very interesting and vastly different paths outside of this sport. Lance, you are an educator, mentor, and leader in the Detroit community focusing on youth which is something that I love because in order to create generational change and wealth within our communities we essentially have to plant the seeds in our youth in order for those changes to flourish long after we are gone. Give us a peek into some of the work you’ve done in the community and some of the changes you are looking to make with our youth.
Lance: Certainly! I’m no longer in education and am now a project manager for a community development organization but much of the work that I have done in the community came from my time as a Dream Director at Cody High School. I served there for five years focusing on social and emotional learning, helping to develop projects based on what the students were passionate about to enhance the culture of their school. I helped students turn ideas into projects that were tangible to help them go from imagination into action. I wore many hats in school, but for me, it was all about unlocking the unlimited possibilities that existed in young people. I provided one on one coaching services, project development, team building, but most importantly mentorship. Young people need to see more Black men that look like them in educational spaces that can relate to their experiences.
Joe: I come from the music industry and from the outside to children and young men the culture is very intriguing. So outside of the glitz and glamour of it, I often would show the youngins more about where I come from and how I got here considering we all came from similar backgrounds. I have been called to speak at several high schools around Detroit, MI. I have also spoken to the young men’s high school football teams to address their mental struggles. Between those and food giveaways in the Detroits low-income neighborhoods, I’ve always been open to sharing some support and my experiences. More recently with We Run 313 we linked up with the Alkebu-lan Village to assist with them producing their first 5k and getting the kids and elders more active in another low-income neighborhood of Detroit, MI,
MSM: Joe your path is also interesting as music is your passion and you eventually went into management producing and managing acts with various artists. Music is a passion where once you get it, it never leaves. Tell us a bit about your journey into the world of music and management.
They can expect to be met with positivity and optimism, because although we’ve run thousands of miles we still have to be optimistic about the miles ahead of us, and we share that optimism. Also they can look forward to the camaraderie they get from the group of people who support you throughout your run and push you all the way to the finish if you need it.
Joe: I jumped into music at 18, simply just being optimistic and saying yes to things. I knew at an early age that I didn’t want to do any work that I didn’t love. Prior to this in high school, I became very fond of buying low and selling high as I sold sneakers all through my high school and college years. So the hustle of entrepreneurship intrigued me along with controlling my future. Fast forward to my introduction to music, I looked at it as the same thing, the product being songs or talent, and taking that and scaling it to sell. From there I’ve worked with artists like Big Sean, Slum Village, Black Milk, Earlly Mac, and Supakine, as well as producing shows, tours and concerts nationwide.
MSM: I find that founders or leaders that work together are polar opposites of each other but essentially leads to a nice mesh when it comes to working together. Give our readers a look into the relationship of Lance and Joe and your relationship.
Lance: Yea fa sho. Joe and I are very different but a lot alike. We are pretty laid-back people, we joke and laugh all the time, share very similar interests in music, and are always in quest of seeking knowledge. It’s funny because we only knew each other for two months before we launched the run club. That can be tricky when starting a business with someone because you really don’t know another person’s motives, especially being from Detroit. Our relationship has grown over the past two years into a solid brotherhood. We hang together often and talk nearly every day. We don’t take anything personal when it comes to business because that’s what it is and we both had a solid understanding of that long before we met which makes it easier to get things done. Both of our experiences leading up to building the club have added extreme value to what we have.
Joe: Yeah, Lance and I come from different backgrounds and journeys, however, we both are from Detroit and just growing up in Detroit gives us similarities you can’t find anywhere else. We know some of the same people and laugh at some of the same things. We both are smart enough to understand what’s at stake and what’s most important, WeRun313. I haven’t known Lance for that long according to the calendars but our bond definitely says otherwise. It’s no better person to have a run club with.
MSM: Running has a different feel and meaning for the both of you: Lance”s“spiritual space to break through barriers of doubt, which develops into mental toughness” and Joe you find inspiration in the atmosphere of the run community. When did the both of you meet and start to really formulate the idea of forming the run club We Run 313?
Lance: We met in 2019 the same year we started the run club. A mutual friend of ours noticed that we were doing the same things on opposite sides of town and connected us via Instagram. Joe was running on the East Side of town and traveling to participate in races, I was on the West Side and traveling to participate in races. In fact, we both ran the Miami Marathon in January 2019 and did not know each other. That’s when the connection was made by our mutual friend. From there we linked up for a run in February then ran with each other for a couple of months. By April we started planning for the launch of the run club. The rest is history.
Joe: Lance answered it perfectly.
MSM: We haven’t touched on some of your previous achievements as a runner for the both of you. What have been some of the things that have stood out over the years that you’ve been proud of from a run standpoint for the both of you? What have been some of your favorite races in the past?
Lance: My personal achievements as a runner have been really building this community of runners, but most importantly community of good people. Nothing matters to me more than building community other than God and my family. However, since inception I have always been a competitor so once I started taking running seriously I got better at it because I want to be the best at anything I invest a substantial amount of time in. I’m proud of all the half marathons and marathons that I have finished, but most recently racing at Glass City Marathon and setting a PR and Boston Qualifying time of 2:49:48 for now will be my stand out performance that I’m most proud of.
Joe: Just about every race that have participated in 2019, 2020 and 2021. I say this because these are the years I decided to train effectively and give it my all. If I really sat here and broke down what I liked about each race ( which is about 30 races) I’d be here all day. More recently my performance in my last marathon I ran a 3:06. This was big for me because a training mate and friend of mine ran a 3:13 in 2019 and I couldn’t believe it, so to be at a point where I once impressed by says a lot to me personally.
MSM: We Run 313 was founded on May 4th, 2019 which is pretty recent and still fairly new. The club has grown expeditiously in these two years which tells us a few things:
- That there was an urgent need for a community based run club that was catered towards men and women of color.
- There was a huge amount of runners that wanted to get in shape and simply run.
When did the both of you know and realize that there was a need for the run club. What was the light going off moment for the both of you?
The Mission: The run club was created to connect like-minded individuals through running to help build a healthier and more prosperous community. It was also created to assist Detroiters in becoming more active in the sport of distance running. The club is for runners of all levels, ages, and ethnicities to bring awareness to the physical and mental health benefits of running. Woods & Robinson aim to dismantle the narrative that African-Americans don’t run and move the culture forward in a way that has never been done, specifically in Detroit.
Lance: So when I was at the Miami Marathon in January 2019, I made some connections with the founder of District Running Collective, Matt Green (my frat brother) and many others while I was there. A few of the members invited me to come to Washington, D.C to be a pacer for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in April 2019. I’m like bet, I’ll be there! When I pulled up and experienced the level of excellence that existed in their run club, I was inspired to know the possibilities of what we could create in Detroit because there was a huge need. That was the light bulb moment for me but honestly, at first I didn’t want to do it because I knew how much it would require of me. Joe was the perfect partner because his level of discipline and love for running is much stronger than mine. I have always been a social guy, a dot connector, someone who has the ability to build deep meaningful connections. With us combined it was like stars aligning to create WeRun313.
Joe: The moment I realized there was a need for the run club was when we started to see people coming back week after week. That shocked me because running is such a difficult thing and to see people coming back to back said a lot to me. I made me understand that they either recognize the change or recognize who they can become.
MSM: What I love about your mission statement is that you are both working to essentially “dismantle the narrative that we don’t run”. In fact, a lot of us run more than people think, and our stories essentially and simply aren’t told or shared. The both of you are continuing to break down walls and barriers in your community. What were some of the challenges early on once We Run 313 was created?
Lance: For me, I knew plenty of people who ran, just not many in Detroit. This may sound cliche’ but I didn’t really see challenges. When you’re passionate about something the work doesn’t feel like work because you’re doing it with a great sense of purpose. The challenge itself is the hard work of getting things up, establishing the culture and keeping it running. It’s difficult building anything from the ground up. Most people fail because they lack the discipline to remain consistent or they want to take three steps at a time when it’s best to take one. WeRun313 is successful because we are consistent. No matter who showed up, even if it was 10 people, we ran, took pictures, and posted on social media as if there were 100+ people in the picture. We never were in it to try to make our run club look different on social media than what the experience is in real life. Once we were able to create that space, everything else organically fell in place.
Joe: There weren’t really many barriers in my mind considering we started with no expectations or intentions for real. We literally just wanted to invite people out to run and we did just that. There were small obstacles like printing enough merchandise for everyone or trying to figure a safe place to meet.
MSM: One thing runners LOVE, myself included, are some good old-fashioned group meet-ups and runs. We Run 313 offers just that with #TwoMileTuesday, 5k/10k Thursday, and everyone’s favorite the Sunday long run. Usually, all of these group runs tend to have a huge turnout with Two Mile Tuesday appearing to be the main meet up with the crew. For new runners coming to the group what are some of the things they can look out for when coming to a group run?
Lance: When you first come to a run you can look out for that church feel when it’s your first time visiting. We make it known we have new people in the space whether local or out of town so that you feel seen and welcomed. You’re going to get massive encouragement from others and you won’t feel alone. It’s going to feel like something you never felt before, and once you leave you’ll be proud of yourself for accomplishing the goal you set forth. Nobody is running those miles for you, you did it and that’s dope.
Joe: They can expect to be met with positivity and optimism, because although we’ve run thousands of miles we still have to be optimistic about the miles ahead of us, and we share that optimism. Also they can look forward to the camaraderie they get from the group of people who support you throughout your run and push you all the way to the finish if you need it.
MSM: Growth and great leadership is essentially a reflection of the teammates that are part of the team. What I’ve seen is that there are many parts that are moving behind the both of you. We Run 313 has a huge team from pacers to captains, creative directors and coaches. Take us through some of the people behind the scenes on the team and how the crew divvies up responsibilities within each other.
Lance: Of course! No dreamer builds alone. We have a leadership team of 15 people (excluding Joe and myself) who all play their part in building what we have. These people were organically showing up to every run and generously lending a helping hand where they saw fit. From there we asked would they mind to continue showing up in that capacity but rather put a title on it.
MSM: Connect, Run and Build are three of the most consistent words you’ll hear about with We Run 313 crew. What do these three words mean to the both of you?
Lance: Well when you break down the meaning, it’s fairly simple. Connect is what happens when you first come to the space, Run in in the middle because it is the glue between connecting and building. It’s hard to keep a group of people together if you’re not connecting or building with one another or you feel no connection to the cause. We come together because of running but connections must be built and developed to retain. So to me, these three words mean togetherness, strength, and unity, which essentially means building community.
MSM: Very seldom are you able to find a run club that caters to all paces and while also making an effort to do so. To me this sets the groundwork for runners to return and remain consistent with the group as there are paces for everyone. You even have pace groups. How does this help runners that are just getting started?
Lance: Well first you must understand your why and your mission. We are a social run club that connects like-minded individuals through running to build a healthier and happier community. Running is just a tool to connect and inspire people. We are in the business of building community and in order to do so you have to meet people where they are. Everybody is at different stages in their fitness level just like everyone is in different stages in their lives. Since we have running as the platform you have black doctors connecting with someone who might be a line worker at Ford Motor Company. We have been able to break down those barriers and engage people to see them as humans not socioeconomic status. At the end of the day none of that matters, we are here to help people look inward to live healthier and happier lives.
Joe: It’s very comforting to know there is someone there to help you see it through. Very good to have someone along the run who will be running at your pace, or someone there who will push you to the end. Very helpful.
MSM: This crew isn’t just about easy running but also RUNNING/RUNNING. A few of the team members went out and absolutely crushed the Glass City Marathon where you brought home a handful of BQs and a massive personal best. To commit to a cycle as a group I’m sure is a pretty dope feeling, a feeling to do it together. What was that moment like when all of you committed to that goal? The point of no return?
Lance: The moment I jokingly put it in the atmosphere that I wanted to qualify for Boston was in 2019. Then we created WeRun313 and I was around guys like Joe, Mike, Tommie, and Aaron; I started becoming a better runner because of the accountability. In 2020 things started becoming more realistic without any real training. By January 2021 I decided to make it happen and committed to a four-month training block. Once I make the decision to do something, it’s already done. I’ve already visualized it happening in my mind so now it’s just about being patient with the process of making it a reality. That’s always been the case for me throughout my life. I think that comes from never wanting to let myself down. Anything I start I must see it through to completion or I can’t live comfortably inside myself. So yea, it was to the point of no return. Even If I hadn’t accomplished my BQ time (2:48:49) I’d be training for the next race to make it happen.
Joe: We signed up to run Glass City for 2020, but it was postponed due to the pandemic. But prior to this It was Tommie who said he wanted to qualify for Boston, he said this in 2019. Sounded crazy to me back then, I didn’t think I would be actually making the attempt or coming as close as I did.
MSM: With a goal of that magnitude I’m sure comes a tremendous amount of accountability between each other. How do the both of you keep each other accountable not only in running and the community but also as Black men.
Lance: Joe and I talk nearly every day whether it’s about life or daily management of WeRun313. Leading and organizing the run club is a huge responsibility and tremendous accountability in itself. We always have this notion of leading by example. It’s very hard to lead people if you’re not willing to go the distance yourself. Most people have to see things before they believe it, especially as Black men living in Detroit. As Black men we hold each other accountable by always being in integrity; if we notice something that we shouldn’t be doing or could have possibly done differently, we don’t mind sharing those thoughts and nothing is ever taken personally by it.
Joe: Like Lance mentioned, we speak every day mostly about the business and how to keep getting better but also about life and running as well. But a big piece of it comes from seeing each other’s activity and progress. If there is a day where you haven’t gotten out or don’t have the energy one of the guys you’re on the training plan with will post a run, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not putting your best foot forward and your teammates are.
MSM: “Better runners and better overall humans” with a focus on well being and mental health, another important conversation that we should have in our black and brown communities and amongst ourselves. How does running with this crew help others improve on this aspect of their day to day?
Lance: Well when you run with WeRun313, most people feel better about themselves for many reasons. We are constantly motivating, encouraging, and affirming the people that they should be proud of themselves for what they just accomplished because running is hard. You broke a sweat, endorphins are kicking in and you experience a natural high. As you continue getting deeper into running by remaining consistent, that’s when the mental aspect comes into play. You begin to push past your own limitations, you find intrinsic motivation, and those things begin to penetrate different areas of your life. You always have this mantra of whatever you do in your daily life, find a way to keep going and see it through.
Joe: First of all there are so many different types of people in the group. And all these different types of people each bring something different to the club. And the fact that everyone comes from different ethnicities, backgrounds, and careers we all see eye to eye when we are running. Which makes it easier to learn from one another and see the run through to the end.
MSM: What does the future hold for Lance, Joe and the 313 Crew?
Lance: I see big things on the horizon. I’d be lying to you if I said I knew what it is but just recently we had an interview with Al Roker of NBC’s Today show so I believe we are in good company. Eventually, we want to franchise various area codes across the nation so that we can bring this type of energy for people to experience everywhere. In the meantime, we are going to continue impacting the community we live in a positive way by building on what we have here.
Joe: The sky is honestly the limit for us. A run club has so many different ways to reach people and create change in the community. With our creativity and divine purpose, who knows where we’ll take it next, maybe to your city WeRun718,347,917??? lol
MSM: From us here at Mid Strike to the both of you good brothers we wish you nothing but the best for the both of you and the entire team. Any last words for our readers?
Lance: Sure I will leave you with two quotes that I live by: “The hallmark of a winner always has another try left in them” and “It is when we forget ourselves that we do things which will be remembered.” I’ll leave you to interpret the way you want.
Joe: Yes we want everyone to take part in TwoMileTuesday join us via Strava from wherever you are. And run with us virtually. Also join our Facebook group “Two Mile Tuesday” post and share your runs daily to motivate the world!