Track Mafia isn’t a running club – it’s a community. “People don’t just come for the exercise. They come for friendship,” says founder Cory Wharton-Malcolm, “Beefy” to his friends and followers. “At Track Mafia, you’ll meet chefs, illustrators, hospital workers, CEOs, TfL workers… Everyone has a common purpose.” On Thursday nights at Paddington Rec’s athletics track, there is no hierarchy. It’s free, and novices train alongside pros.
Groups such as Track Mafia and Run Dem Crew, for which Wharton-Malcolm has also worked, have changed the face of recreational running. It’s been said that the sport attracts a narrow demographic – slim, middle class, white. These crews are the antidote: a home for those who don’t fit the profile, but take their running no less seriously.
When Wharton-Malcolm took up running in preparation for joining the 2007 London Marathon, he could barely jog to the bottom of his road without gassing out. “My friends laughed and said, ‘You’re fat, you smoke, you eat kebabs. How do you plan to do this?’”
They’re probably not laughing now. Today, as well as fronting Track Mafia, Wharton-Malcolm is a head coach (and voice) for the Nike Run Club app, which during lockdown became the fourth most popular app in the UK. He has acted as a speaker in parliament and Buckingham Palace, talking about how sports can be used to engage young people, strengthen communities and reduce antisocial behaviour.
Championing inclusivity remains his MO, including opening up new pathways into top-tier jobs. “I think a lot of organisations feel, ‘If this person wasn’t taught the way I was taught, then they’re not for us. We’ll have to spend too much time showing them how to do things our way.’ But don’t you want to learn how to do things their way, too?”
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