Photo by George Grullom
Born on July 7, 2012, Original Propaganda Athletic Club (O.P.A.C.) organically resides at the confluence of history, sport, and culture. Our mission is to foster an elite, equally competitive environment for our family members, serve as a vehicle for athletes to become and remain involved in an organized team atmosphere, create an energetic culture of activity and identity without limitation of sport, and become a part of Philadelphia’s cultural fabric with sport, fashion, entertainment, and social activism.
Before O.P.A.C. there was the Villanova Run Crew (V.R.C.), which was founded on July 16, 2011. Yes, I’m a stickler for dates.
The vision was to unite our athletics community around the beautiful sport of running.
We had one overarching goal in mind: Never Run Alone.
As with most teams, you need a good mascot. Something that represents your origin, location, or reason for existence. As NIKEiD was revolutionizing the industry, there was an interesting design in their apparel offering: a thare.
What the fuck is a thare, right?
Well, it is a hybrid of a tortoise and a hare, but when you elaborate on the intricacies of a tortoise and a hare, their speed — or lack thereof — and the renowned fable, we came to realize that unusual creation embodied our reason for being.
Runners of ALL FACES AND PACES coexisting in a “Equally Competitive” environment.
Slow runners should not be intimidated by their faster counterparts, but rather motivated by them. Fast runners not to be frustrated with their not-as-fast counterparts, but inspired by them. A community where we equivalently cheer the Couch-To-5Ker with the same fervor that we do the Seasoned Marathoner.
Everyone training together, everyone competing together.
These V.R.C. tenets have shaped our ideology to this very day. O.P.A.C. has become a society where non-runners become runners and runners become better runners. It is a place where running is the primary platform for more tentacles of athleticism to grow. Where everyone, regardless of accomplishment or limitation, is equally competitive…..and competitively equal.
Original Propaganda Athletic Club has grown from a box of black t-shirts into a grassroots athletic and social club in Philadelphia with Olympic-level reach. We produce original athletic and social platforms such as Run Club, bR.U.N.ch., and O.P.A.C. Relays; and work tirelessly to elevate preexisting global and local running moments including Flash Run, Philadelphia Marathon, Broad Street Run, and Penn Relays.
Let me do a deep dive into our mission statement…
To foster an elite, equally competitive environment is simply ALL FACES, ALL PACES. Over here a walker gets the same respect as an Olympic Trials Qualifier. We mean that shit! We almost have both in the family now that I think about it. I am currently walking more than running as I recover from COVID-19 and all-too-slowly, but safely, build my endurance back up for half-marathon training. Brutal. And we have two (2) family members who just missed Marathon Trials. One bloke missed the time by 11 seconds. ELEVEN SECONDS!!!!! Again…..brutal.
Ok, let us be clear. There is a one thousand percent difference between me going outside and walking three-ish miles in my quaint Philadelphian suburb (I am from West Philadelphia. No, you are not witty if you’re thinking “born and raised”) and someone who goes out and fucking rips a marathon and OTQs.
My double-digit minute mile time is definitely not the same as the sub 4, 5, 6 folks. Shit, sub 7, 8, 9 folks. I get that. However, if we are to truly grow this glorious sport we have to truly be inclusive.
Appreciate the plethora of layers this beautiful running thing offers. It works both ways. For 7 years when we said “All Faces, All Paces” we were only thinking of the folks who were not as fast or tenured as some other folks. Then one day I realized that we had possibly been lying for 84 months. Frauding. We had focused so much on the Brodies of the world that we may have unknowingly excluded the full senders and the capital ‘r’ rippers. Pivot.
All faces and all paces means ALL FACES AND ALL PACES. Speed is a language, and at times there are communication barriers that need to be broken down. That is what we do at O.P.A.C.
Here is a real life story.
When I started running I planned to only do 5Ks. My first race was a half. During training, my group was led by an Ironwoman and multiple Boston Marathon finisher. She’s legitimate!
My group, however, was Average Joes.
One day we linked with this other training group for a joint 8-mile long run. Let’s call them Globo Gym. We show up in old camp tees and slouchy socks. They’re in singlets, splitwise shorts, and I swear they were still wearing race bibs. You know the clown that has ski lift tickets on her/his jacket from 6 years prior.
That’s the shit we were dealing running with. They dropped us IMMEDIATELY. Some of us quit. Some of us cried. I got lost. Horrendous. And, it was not their speed. I was in awe of their speed. It was the way I felt they purposely made us feel about our lack thereof. Rookie hazing.
Lesson learned, I guess. “Never again” I vowed would anyone in my Family ever feel that broken again. But I digress… and that brings me to another aspect of O.P.A.C.
We serve as a vehicle for athletes to become and remain involved in an organized team atmosphere.
Some of us never had organized sports; some of us no longer have organized sports. My days as a professional basketball player ended in the 9th grade when I stopped growing vertically and began to expand horizontally. Played a little CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) ball until I realized that I was much better at making money, getting fly (read: spending too much of that aforementioned money on clothing) and buying sneakers.
Some of my Original Propaganda Athletic Club family members are seconds removed from NCAA track, basketball, soccer and field hockey teams. All-Americans and National Champions. A proud history of success at the highest levels. We are all looking for team, community, family.
Everything we do, including Run Club, training, race day and event attendance serves to improve our level of performance and cohesiveness as a family. O.P.A.C. is comprised of Olympic, professional, former NCAA and developing athletes. Our goals are introducing individuals to sport, continuing organized competition post club, high school, college, and professional careers, and maintaining success in the national and international arenas.
I know, sounds like I am writing a cover letter.
One day I in 2017 (bummed I cannot remember the exact date) I was talking to a former Villanova athlete in my office. Very casual conversation, but she began to explain how, in her sport, once you are done with college your options were basically nonexistent. After graduation if you are not good enough to go pro or coach, you must wait until you are 27 years old to compete in Masters.
You have spent your entire life identifying as this athlete and one day it just abruptly ends.
Spend half a decade in void? Have you ever seen someone who still thinks he or she is still in a fraternity or sorority at 34? Shit, it took me 9 years to realize college was over. And I do not know if I am fully recovered yet. I mean we rented an underground frat house for O.P.A.C. Relays 3 years ago! I’m 41. Never graduate…..
At any rate, that brief conversation led me to remix our mission statement so that we could create an energetic culture of activity and identity without limitation of sport. A flourishing community who, among other things (rowing, basketball, soccer, etc.), run. All facets of sport are encompassed under the overall objective of O.P.A.C.
Running is our primary platform. Ugh, cover letter.
If you mentioned Philadelphia — birthplace of this great union — among other global cities when O.P.A.C. started in ’12, you felt the blank stare that confirms the depth of our city’s irrelevance within the athletic, fashion, and popular culture cosmos. Or, even worse, you became familiarized with our story articulated from another city’s perspective. That present lack of presence is the foundation for our future in sport: Original Propaganda Athletic Club.
Wait, let me walk that back a bit. When O.P.A.C. started, I admittedly was looking outward.
I was looking at London’s Run Dem Crew in concept and the New York Athletic Club in name. I ignorantly did not know about the clubs and groups in Philly that were already rocking. That negligence has given us a fresh current perspective on the running scene in Philadelphia.
We have looked at those who have succeeded and continue to do so. No doubt inspiring. O.P.A.C. and the Philly scene, however, represents the struggle that leads to that success.
To become a part of Philadelphia’s cultural fabric with sport, fashion, entertainment, and social activism…
That chapter is unfinished.
Even with progress and achievement it will never be finished. We are the hustle. The grind. The folks at the starting block trying to catch those at the finish line. We are the race!
Lionel Brahim Brodie III
Original Propaganda Athletic Club