By Cecilia Seiter
“If anyone is in Downey, the Ralph’s near my house has a sizable amount of produce and milk.”
A WhatsApp notification jolts me awake on Tuesday morning. I lift my foggy-headed gaze to my phone and blink twice at the screen. “It’s too early for this,” I groan to myself, but I peel my eyes open to read what it says nonetheless.
The message is from Bryan Lopez, a running buddy of mine. He is texting in a group chat called “KRC Cares.”
At first, still wrapped in my half-asleep stupor, I am confused. Why has Koreatown Run Club (KRC), a group of which I’ve been a part for a year and a half, just now decided to make this group chat? Why is Bryan texting us out of nowhere to let us know he found milk and produce at the Ralph’s in Downey?
Slowly, the fog begins to lift from my lids. I feel my heart jump into my throat as reality places its cold, dead weight back onto my shoulders.
There is a virus ravaging the world like a wildfire. The grocery shelves are empty. Our hospitals are overwhelmed. KRC’s beloved group runs have been canceled indefinitely.
And on top of that, it’s pouring like crazy in Los Angeles. “The world really is ending,” I think as I stumble out of bed and lace up my Nikes. I don’t mind running in the rain.
For many of us here in the City of Angels — and around the world — running is the ultimate release. It is the perfect intersection of both body and social exercise. It is the unwinding after long hours at work in entertainment, law enforcement, engineering, education. Yes, it’s called Koreatown Run Club, but it’s not about the running. Not really.
KRC is a family. It is a sacred gathering, one in which people from all over Los Angeles — as well as the world — congregate to feel their feet pounding on the hot city pavement and the prickling of cold beer after a sweaty six-miles.
So when our group runs were suspended, it felt like the world had skidded to a halt.
Not Slowing Down But Stepping Up
The messages continue pinging.
“Available on the Westside for deliveries/groceries. Anytime after 6:30 pm or before 9 am.”
“Wassup everyone! I can give rides, drop off food/supplies. I live in Ktown and usually drive around all over LA/SFV for work. My schedule is fairly flexible and willing to help out!”
“Going to start to push to see how we can help more and set up a shared Google sheet for quick grocery trips.”
“Amazing!!! F is definitely for family!”
Despite the current state of the world, a smile tugs at the corner of my mouth. I push myself out the door in a brisk jog, convinced the love this family has for each other is what will spur the Earth back into motion.
Every day since the city went on lockdown, KRC members continue to show up for each other. They cook and organize grocery deliveries. They create group chats on Instagram for exchanging words of love and solidarity. They share videos of their runs, encouraging each other to keep active. They offer their hard-earned cash to those in the entertainment and service industries who are now out of work.
They are relentless in their outpouring of love, no matter how dire straits seem.
No Family Member Left Behind
When I return from my run (documented on Instagram and hashtagged with our club’s catchphrase, #CheckingIn), I ask my fellow KRC runner Alexander Hancock how the support system is making him feel. I know he’s been hit particularly hard by anxiety lately, and I want to know if any of it is soothed by the (strictly digital) presence of his KRC family members.
He assures me it is.
“I’ve had so many anxiety attacks in the past where you just sort of suffer alone,” he tells me over Instagram video chat. “And you know, this time … I didn’t have to.”
“It’s weird to me, a little bit,” he continues. “We’re just a bunch of people who run together. But there’s something about this community that is so strong.”
The weight that reality had placed on my shoulders this morning suddenly feels like it’s being lifted. I don’t know if I can attribute that to my run, or to the fact that I was blessed with a bit of human interaction today, but I do know one thing: F is for family.
And family doesn’t leave family behind.