After graduating from Cass Business School in the UK, Greg Drach decided that he wanted to run a marathon a year as way to prove to himself that he was staying fit enough to do so. Of course, aspiration and action are two separate things. “Effectively, I’d would kind of wake up in September/October and I’d be like ‘I haven’t done my marathon!’” shared the London resident. “And then I would do this super frantic 8-12 week training and then run a marathon somewhere in the UK [in] November/December.”
Weeks later, Drach would return to his daily routine and toss running aside until the next marathon—always scrambling to get his miles in last minute. Finding himself in this cyclical cycle, Drach knew he wasn’t successfully accomplishing what he had set out to do. That’s when he met Christian Dorffer, a fellow runner who was consistently training throughout the year. “I started running with Christian on weekends in Hyde Park and a couple of his friends. And I noticed that…the frequency of my running went up,” said Drach. “I kept running and it kind of became something I really began looking forward to.”
By becoming accountable to others, Drach was learning how to train better, up his mileage and find a new community of like-minded individuals. The group of 13, which ran in the evenings, would often times end their Friday runs with a stop at a local pub where they’d socialize over pints. This planted the seed for Midnight Runners, a global running group started by him and Dorffer in 2015. “We just wanted to create a bit of behavioral hack for ourselves,” shared Drach. “It seems like we did something right because people would come back and then bring their friends and those friends would bring their friends.”
To add to the experience, Drach and Dorffer began bringing portable speakers on runs to promote more interaction. In the spring of that year, one their pop-up events in Barcelona went viral on social media and people began signing up for their runs by the hundreds. By creating more of these events throughout Europe, Midnight Runners was quickly growing and turning into more than just a local run club.
“We we would basically sign up for marathons and run it on Sunday,” said Drach. “But we would organize our own run on a Friday night and then meet people and chill out on Saturday. We had successful events in Barcelona, Lisbon and Athens, where hundreds of people would show up.”
Fast forward to 2017 and the group’s rising popularity caught the eye of Reebok who requested to meet with the founders to discuss a partnership. “We realized that we actually share some key values with Reebok,” stated Drach. “Our profile of a runner is a person who is very active, they might exercise 3-5 times a week—obviously a big part of it is running, but not only. [They are] predominately female and young professionals. We realized that Reebok represents that type of athlete as well.”
Since forming the partnership, Midnight Runners has begun chapters in Berlin, Barcelona and Boston, the former becoming the first-ever US destination for the group. “An incredibly important part of Midnight Runners [is] being very open and tolerant. I’ve always seen [it] as a movement that is present in the most open, global and dynamic cities in the world,” shared Drach.
On Friday, June 8, they launched their second US destination: New York City, with a 10K run in Manhattan. In NY, the group meets every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. for a 10K music boot camp run. The speed of runs varies between 6:30 min/miles to 9:30 min/miles, and instead of pacers, those in the lead stop along the way to do burpees and sit-ups while the back of the pack catches up.
For Drach, one of the best things about the group is its ability to bring people of all different ages, races, occupations and genders together. “It’s such a democratic sport that it doesn’t matter who you are by day,” said Drach. “The moment you put your running shoes on, everyone is the same and the distance is the same for everyone so I suppose like.” There’s also a story-telling component that the group’s founders are excited to incorporate more as they share their vision and mission with other runners.
Since forming, Drach shared that romantic relationships have taken shape, children have been born and business collaborations have formed. “I think we can do a better job telling stories of the personal challenges people had to overcome to get into their active lifestyles or their connections that kind of emerge within the community,” stated Drach.
In the coming years, Drach hopes to bring Midnight Runners to more cities but expansion isn’t necessarily the main goal of the community. “It’s not really about launching as many as cities as possible,” he said. “It’s really about developing those communities and making sure that they are very active and have the right culture. It’s about sustainable growth, of course opening up Midnight Runners to more people, but ensuring that we do it in the right way.”