Rudolph Galindo, a West Palm Beach resident and parks and recreation employee, didn’t think a four-person running club he started for fun would ever reach a high of 77 people.
Out of a run that happened because Galindo and three others hated running on their own, the Night Runners West Palm Beach was born in December 2016.
When it started, the group’s focus was on the LGBT community “because there weren’t a lot of places we could make friends,” Galindo said. But they’re inclusive of people of both different backgrounds and speeds.
“Everybody’s there for the same reasons: to socialize and get some physical activity,” Galindo said . “It’s not about the competitions or cliques.”
Night Runners West Palm Beach is also nonprofit — with Galindo as the board of directors’ president. They use their funds on things like water for everyone after the runs every Monday and Thursday at 8 p.m. starting in Howard Park in West Palm Beach.
He’s not sure why the group’s participation has boomed in the last year or so, but the board’s vice president, Avion Goordeen, has a guess.
“We present ourselves as a welcoming group,” said Goordeen, who’s been running with the group for a year and a half. “We try to inspire, try to motivate … and that’s what got me hooked.”
Next year, the Night Runners will kick off Compass’ annual PrideFest with a 5K run.
This is the first time Compass is partnering on a race, but not the first time the two organizations have worked together.
“We love the Night Runners organization and their board - it’s made up largely of some of our most stalwart volunteers,” said Claudia Harrison, Chief Information Officer for Compass.
Last month, some of the runners represented the group at Compass’ fifth annual Women’s Wellness Conference to educate people on fitness as a “preventive medicine,” said Goordeen.
He has been involved with running groups in the past, but none have paralleled the encouragement, inclusivity and positivity that Night Runners has, he said.
Lately the group has been seeing more diverse ages show up as as well. According to Goordeen, there are several mother and son duos — and one mother in her 30s who brings along her 7-year old, 5-year-old and toddler to the runs.
Pace diversity is also important for the group. On each of the nightly runs participants can choose a 2 mile walking route, or a 3 mile running route. Ever since they added a walking group Galindo has noticed higher participation rates.
Aside from running, the group also encourages its members to socialize outside of its twice weekly runs.
“It’s more of a familial bond to say the least,” Goordeen said. “Cohesion with the group is at an all-time high.”
They’ll often partner with different running groups from the county or participate in local races like the St. Jude Walk/Run that took place last weekend in West Palm Beach.
The Pride 5K taking place next March will be the group’s first race they’re organized on their own. Races don’t come cheap either. Galindo said it would cost about $9,000 to organize the event.
Other events include the one they’ll be hosting next March with Compass and ones in the past like a popular glowstick-themed run they participated in.
“We’re there as a community, not to judge people,” Galindo said.
Some members — like Galindo and Goordeen — give back to the LGBT community further by having participated in the SMART Ride, a 165-mile bike ride from Miami to Key West. The SMART Ride donates its proceeds to local HIV related organizations, and prevention and treatment providers, like Compass.
What Galindo and Goordeen are particularly humbled by is how fast they’ve grown without a rigid digital marketing strategy. For the most part, they said, people have found out about the group via word of mouth. But Goordeen said that growing organically has helped strengthen its community-driven purpose.
“It takes a big group to do something like this, and keep up the momentum,” Galindo said.
Follow them on Instagram at @nightrunnersWPB.