When I run, I end up doing a fair amount of daydreaming. It’s this amazing sliver of my day where I’m unreachable and totally by myself. I can’t answer email. I can’t write an article. Nobody is asking for my attention or care. It’s 45 minutes of letting my mind wander while I push my body. And going for a run doesn’t just open my mind, it opens me up to the world around me. I end up noticing coffee shops that I’ve never seen or come across green spaces I’d never noticed.
Surprisingly often, I seem to run, practically head first, into really cool street art. Giant walls painted in vivid tones.
That’s what Erik Valiente, founder of running group BlacklistLA , discovered when he started running near his Los Angeles home. Being on foot put him in touch with neighborhoods he’d never slowed down to explore before, and more importantly, the amazing art in the city. He was from the city, but seeing it from a different perspective sparked something in him.
Art invigorated his running, and it made him dream a way to combine art and running for others. It was the seed of an idea that would turn into a full-blown movement.
“I was born and raised in Los Angeles,” Erik Valiente tells me. “We are dreamers. We think big.”
Valiente isn’t overstating things. He loves his city and the creativity it’s given birth to. And he fits right in with these big-thinkers — never willing to limit the scope of what he might achieve. In fact, it was his refusal to say “I can’t” that started his career.
“One of my friends had challenged me to run a marathon,” he says with a laugh. “I was like ‘Hey, I think could do that.’ As a joke, they were like, ‘I think you can’t.’ And that was the first time I went out for my longest run to date.”
Valiente had never run over a mile before. But when his friend goaded him, he ran seven miles in one go. Afterward, he decided to train for a marathon. Though he admits he didn’t have the right training (or any idea how to train for such a feat), he did finish. From there, he decided he was going to run the LA marathon every year to improve his time. Soon, he had fully and completely fallen in love with running.
“I really loved the discipline it gave me,” he tells me, “the commitment that I had to give to the sport, and how it taught me to push my limits.”