It’s a strange feeling, standing under Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on a Saturday morning, a time when you may expect the bustle of football-related traffic at other times of year. But as the Mafia Moves group arrive, you could say the energy of running arguably out-performs that of any Spurs fan.
“It’s all about community,” Andre Coggins tells me as we begin the run. “I really want to give back to my area and this is how I do it,” he says, referring to the group. It’s all about getting people moving – there’s no pretence, no costs or requirements to join a session, just show up ready to run. “We have a mix of abilities and ages. Some people have running experience and want a group to run with, but we sometimes get people from other sports joining and beginners just wanting to run, too,” he says.
The power of community
We make our way through alleyways and parks before reaching Lordship Park where we’re put through a set of running drills and hills. Sessions vary from intervals to hills to steady runs, but Andre has drawn on his experience as a runner where he competed on the track as well as completing Hood 2 Coast Europe – the famous long-distance trail relay that originally began in the USA (a race which starts at the base of Mount Hood in Oregon and arrives at the Pacific coast, 30 hours or more later). By combining all disciplines of running and fitness the group can discover new avenues in the sport for themselves whether that’s for fitness, for road running or for trail racing.
Andre himself has a wealth of experience as a leader, too, where he’s worked with Track Mafia (one of London’s most prominent running crews) as well as in his career as a teacher at a local school.
In the very beginning, it was just Andre and one other runner. “I put something out on to Instagram to see who’d be interested, and that weekend it was just two of us,” he says with a smile. But the group has harnessed the power of social media to aid his mission for movement, posting videos and pictures on a regular basis and gaining more members. “We’ve even had weeks where we needed two groups and needed some extra help from my sister and friends.”
But after recently celebrating its first ‘birthday’, the success of Mafia Moves was very evident throughout the session as everyone ran and supported each other, whether they were new to the group or an experienced runner. “Having a group helps for beginners. Not many people want to run down Tottenham High Street on their own, because it can be busy with lots of people watching. We also get lots of female runners joining us, which is important especially in London.”
After some hills and a jog back to the stadium, we finish up the session with some sprints before some strength and stretching exercises in the shade of the shiny new home of Spurs. As the session comes to a close with a quick debrief from Andre, we hang around and chat before making our way home. While London may not be the world’s top destination for trail running, the spirit of the sport certainly lives here, with friendships formed from all parts of the community through running together. And as Andre himself says: “It’s about getting people moving.”
Take that first step, and enjoyment and passion will surely follow.