London has become a city of energy. Fact. One of the best views of a sweat-fueled skyline is from the track. Out West, amongst a broad stretch of red tarmac and box fresh palm trees, is a custom built running community called Trackmafia. On the ‘little island‘ of Paddington Recreation Ground sneakers are optional, energy is mandatory, and every runner is eligible for an upgrade.
For sprinters in a downtown set up; London, LA or New York, nearly all routes are frequented with traffic lights and road blocks. Stopping becomes obligatory. There is a supreme white line between running these streets and running track. But, track took out the limitations. There simply is no hiatus. Track lets you eye-up the whole course before hitting start. You can’t predict the weather, but the terrain here never changes, the only variable is you. On the track, there’s no hard and fast reason to stop running, until you break yourself off, right?
So, true to the TM mantra, ‘learn to embrace discomfort’, runners confront themselves, that’s it. No fancy tools, no egos, just a stopwatch, and headspace for mental tenacity. It’s the true stories of the coach and ‘TeamMates’, that is the framework of this community. Just like the medals in their lockers, these guys don’t tolerate rust. This is a new generation of fast feet that are built to last.
Track running offers more time for reflection than any other event in this sport. The repetitiveness, the hyper-awareness, the mind games- I wanted to know more. On a Spring blushed afternoon, Cory Wharton-Malcolm shows up to meet me, in his trademark neons. In between laps with Paula Radcliffe, and running London Marathon, I find a moment to champion this guy, chill him with a herbal tea, and lock off a few thirsty questions about the ™ scene. Whatever it is that ™’s figures are fighting against, the numbers are a new standard, and the vibes are very LOUD.
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Hi. So I’m catching you the day before the Marathon. You’re looking super chilled.
What’s your method, your secret?
My secret is to pretend that there is no marathon, until you actually have to acknowledge that there is a marathon. Normally before a marathon, I do all of the preparation that I need to do, but I’ve done marathons enough times to realize that there isn’t actually any point panicking or worrying because when it gets to a week or two before, there’s genuinely absolutely nothing you can do to better your chances. All you can do is do stuff to make it worse. So raising my blood pressure, constantly thinking about times and splits and the weather, what I’m going to wear, it’s pointless. Just get up; it’s just another long run on a Sunday.
Nice. I like that. So you’re Head Coach for Nike+ Run Club, founder of Track Mafia, a leading sports influencer, and have helped hundreds of London school kids get active. Congrats.
Now let’s get the down low on you. You haven’t always been a runner, right? Who was Cory before and where is @bitbeefy now? Where’s the rest of him?
The rest of him has slowly but surely disappeared and you’re right, this is probably the third, fourth, fifth version of Cory. The reason why I say that is back in, probably, I think, 2006 now, I wasn’t a runner, and I was born and raised in London but I’d never actually been to watch the London Marathon. I’d seen it on television; I was inspired by it, but not inspired enough to do it. And then one day, a friend of ours ran it and I went to go and see it. I went to the start line then to the mid-point then to another point, and basically we just followed her all the way round. It’s the first time I’ve actually been to see it and I was just inspired by it. I said to all of my friends, “Do you know what, I’m going to do this next year.” This was when I was really, really fat, I ate loads of kebabs, I smoked, I drank. I actually drank a lot. Now, I’m 37 so I guess I was 26, 27 when I started running. I say this as I want the record to show it wasn’t at midlife crisis point yet but it was definitely a I need to change my life a little bit, but didn’t know how to. That really gave me the kick up the bum. And my first marathon, didn’t train for it. The furthest I ran was a half-marathon and I struggled with that. I ran my first London; it took me six hours, 59 and some change, I fractured my ankle, and it wasn’t a good experience, but I thought to myself, do you know what, I’m not a quitter, I’m going to do more. As the years passed, I was already a sports coach but I was coaching football, table tennis, all that sort of stuff. And then one of my wonderful, great friends, mentor and old boss, Eugene Minogue. He said, “You should do some running qualifications,” and the rest is history.
So can you share the story behind Track Mafia? Rumours do fly about. Let’s settle this. Currently, is it a brand or is it owned by a brand, and how did the name come about?
So Track Mafia was born… Like loads of people will say, “Oh yeah, you know, these things are born out of frustration.” There wasn’t really any frustration. It was myself, Jeggi and Julia, who at the time was my friend, who is now my girlfriend; we are the three founding members of Track Mafia. But the reason why Track Mafia started was because we all kind of come from some kind of a running background. Myself, Jules and Jeggi, we literally just started running around Paddington Recreation Ground, so we’d all met through either Run Dem Crew or RDC West, and then we just started running together and doing speed sessions. So people would come up to us, “Can we join in your speed session?” and it was a straight, “No, you cannot join.” And the reason why we said that you couldn’t join because, to us, it wasn’t a club, it wasn’t a movement, it wasn’t anything like it. What it was was a group of friends just running around the track taking direction from our mate Knox stateside. So then, after running round that track for a little while, we said to one person, “Okay, you can join in,” and then it was another person: “You can join in.” Slowly but surely, it grew and grew and grew, and then there were eight or nine people. And I guess it just snowballed from there.
Did you know it was going to become a thing then?
No, no. And I think that’s why it has happened, I think that’s why it’s worked, because nowadays, a lot of people set things up with the sole purpose to be massive, to achieve all of these wonderful things, and they miss out on the most important bit in the middle, which is we’re doing this for fun. And the reason why people come to our sessions is because they can see that we’re not here doing this for any other reason than this is fun, this is exciting, and we want to share this with you.
So it’s not owned by a brand?
No, no, no, no, no, no. Track Mafia is our brand, Track Mafia is ours. Track Mafia was nobody else’s. We are closely affiliated with a brand, and when I say we are closely affiliated with a brand, I mean all of us, wear Nike and work with Nike.
Because you believe in the product, right?
Yeah. We believe in the product, because it’s sexy, its innovative and it works. I love Flyknit Racers, like I love like Swift tights. I love short shorts, I love the heritage, I love PRE that’s why I wear the brand. My lifestyle and the teams lifestyle fits with them. So in answer to your question, we own Track Mafia.
So for the uninitiated, can you give us the lowdown on the format of a typical track session? Is Track Mafia in a particular training phase right now? How does that look?
So the training phases tend to work in four week-cycles. So people would turn up and the weeks are broken down, or should I say the month is broken down into four weeks. So first of all, you have the BUILD phase then you have the DEVELOP phase then you have the SURVIVE phase and then you have OWN IT. Now, the reason why I’ve called them that is because BUILD is just that. Turn up, say hi, we give you the workout and you work on it, that’s literally it. Then the following week is a DEVELOP, as in so you know what the workout is now, now we’re going to play with it. Now we’re going to work towards bettering it. The SURVIVE week is the right, you know the workout now, you’ve worked on it, now it’s time for you to really, really push yourself. So say for instance, if you turned up on the first week as a beginner, we ask you to do four reps. By the third week of SURVIVE, you would be doing six or seven reps. And then by the final week, it’s OWN IT, where you really, really push for it. We normally tie workouts into seasons, and when I say seasons, into races. So during the winter, we’re doing lots of base training. So we’re doing lots of high reps. So you’re going to do lots of like 800s or one-kilometre reps at a steadier pace, building your legs up for the spring and the summer season when you start doing the short, sharp stuff, 400s and 600s.
So that’s where consistency is key comes from?
Yes. Consistency is key comes from… Okay, if I’m honest, consistency is key was born out of frustration because what tends to happen is a lot of people will come down to track and they believe that the sole purpose of coming to track is to blast the life out of their legs. So they’ll run 400 metres full out, they’ll blow their hamstrings, they’ll hurt their calves, and that’s not what track is about. People don’t seem to understand that track is incredibly scientific. The numbers are supposed to add up. That’s the best way I can explain it. So if you do a 400-metre rep, you should be doing that 400-metre rep at a particular time every single time, dependent on what it is that you’re training for. So, if you want to run a sub six-minute mile then your 400 metres should equate to that. You should be running 400 metres reps at 88-89 seconds, really going for it BUT in a controlled way. A lot of people just think I’ll just run and then look at my watch and see what happens, when I’m not interested in the fact that you can do one 400 metre really, really fast. Do it another ten times. If your splits are all over the place then what you’ve just done is pointless. It’s completely pointless.
So this is all not just a given, you personally have a really intense work ethic, right?
Yes. I do.
What kind of training do you do personally to prevent injury?
To prevent injury, honestly, I’ve started taking that a lot more seriously now because I quit my day job nearly a year ago now, so if my body doesn’t work, I can’t work; that’s the best way to describe it. So to keep my fit, I probably swim a reasonable amount, not loads, but a reasonable amount. I do yoga, minimum twice a week, but like heated Bikram yoga, two to three times a week. I also do Pilates, I do strengthening and conditioning, and I see my coach twice a week. Most of the time once, sometimes twice, but I have one sports massage a week. So let’s just say I run six days a week, I probably do yoga twice a week, I probably do strengthening and conditioning two to three times a week, box a few times, maybe a HIIT class here or there and anything else I can do to keep this body of mine ticking over.
And this has come off the back of some personal injuries?
So, yes that’s come from personal injury. I tore my meniscus 2 years ago now. It’s nearly a year to the date that I had surgery. It was, I think, the 17th of April where I had keyhole surgery on my left knee. The frustrating thing about it was I didn’t actually do it running. I did it doing plyometric stuff; my form was a little bit lazy on the last one and it just went (makes ripping noise) and I ripped it. So this time last year, I couldn’t walk. My girlfriend did the Marathon for the first time. I spoke to the London Marathon; they let me set up a chair and I didn’t move all day, I was on crutches. So to be able to do the London Marathon a year after you think you’re not ever going to be able to run again is fluffing amazing.
Yeah. And you’ve learnt so much about your body this time, right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s why I always kind of look at people and I can tell if people are in their first year or so of running, because they just go flat out. They just destroy themselves with their own enthusiasm. You can’t go out and run 100% every single time you go for a run, that’s how you hurt yourself. So I’ve learnt loads from being injured and I’ve learnt loads from the kind of people that I’ve got around me.
Yeah. There’s clearly a competitive edge to running at the track. How is this used at an advantage to push further?
Having a competitive edge at track is great if it’s used properly. So I’m not really into all-out competitiveness. What I’m about is people fuelling the way that they run from other people’s positive energy. So if someone turns up and there’s no arrogance, there’s no attitude about it, but it’s kind of right, I’m an athlete and I want to work on getting better, and you have a group of people like that then you’re obviously going to push each other. And when you push each other within your own boundaries or push your boundaries a little bit, I think it’s even better. So the way that I look at things, as long as you are being consistent, if you have someone to pull you around then it’s an amazing thing because that is how I got faster. I got faster in my first or second summer at track where it was just me, Jeggi and Jules. So Jeggi was really, really fast, Jules was a little bit slower and I was a little bit slower than Jules. So Jules chased Jeggi and I chased Jules, and it was just the three of us banging out four and 800 metre reps in 25 to 30 degree heat by ourselves.
Who is the Track Mafia support network made up of? Who can we talk to if our mates don’t care about negative splits? Like, who are you guys?
The support network of Track Mafia is I always say to people that Track Mafia is not me, it’s not just me. People may see me on Instagram, people may see me on Facebook or whatever social channels, but the reason why Track Mafia works is because we have a big team. So there’s myself, who does a fair bit. There is Ms Julia Good, aka the First Lady, aka the Queen, aka my missus, I run nearly everything by her, she helps to write and edit a lot of our copy, brings vibes, ideas, seeks out hot locations and keeps us all together. She’s just awesome.
Aw, bigging your lady up.
Yeah man. As for the rest of the team who are just as amazing we have names for them all which kind of give you an insight into where their area of expertise lies. We have Ash, the photographer. Gabs, The American. Cynthia, The Auditor. Manni, The Physio, Natalie, The Generator, Warwick, The quick one. Justin, The Chef. Tom, The Journeyman. And finally John, The Inside outsider. Obviously there’s a lot more to be said about all of them but to list how they help, to list their qualities, we’d probably be here all afternoon. Now Who have I missed out?
I think you’ve got them all.
Yeah, we’ve got them all. And of course, none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for Charlie at Run Dem, because it was him that introduced all of us, or should I say it was his network that introduced all of us, and we’ve built this thing together. And then at the same time, all of this would not happen, wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for Energylab, which is Babs, who’s our coach and our physiotherapist, who kind of keeps our bodies working and ticking over. And all of this then also wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for Rosie Lee, who’s a creative agency that we work with, who consult on all of the creative, edgy stuff, shall we say. So without all of those pieces of the puzzle, none of this would work, none of it would work.
Do you think that’s organically come about from good people being surrounded by good people?
Yeah, because people say that you can achieve things by yourself, but you are far more likely to achieve things if there is a large group of you, you’re all on the same page and you all understand what it is that you’re trying to do. So, someone asked me a question the other day and it was what do you believe sets you apart from whether it’s other organizations, other groups, and my response was we spend most of time celebrating our collective individuality. Now that might sound like some beep…
… but it’s so true. It’s like I’m really good at some things and I’m really bad at other things. Everybody else is really good at things and really bad at things, but when you put all of these things together in this little melting pot and you’re quite happy, not to argue but to be objective and to have a discussion about either what’s going right or what’s going wrong, and you respect other people’s views instead of believing that it’s just you by yourself and you can achieve everything alone, that’s when you achieve things. That’s when you work together because I’m not a selfish person and none of the people that I work with are selfish people, as if we were, it would all be about chest beating and look at me, look at what achieved, when it’s not like that. Any time I speak about what we do, it’s always about us, what we have achieved. Take TheBlackPrint as an example, that wouldn’t have been achieved by myself. That would not have been achieved by myself.
Yeah. And that’s always we not I, right?
Yeah, it’s always we, it’s always we, always we.
In matters of nourishing the mind and self-awareness, how do you build mental tenacity for a long run? Is it possible to disconnect and overcome fear while you’re running?
Because, I think that the psychology with running is a really big thing that we all don’t talk about enough.
A lot of people don’t talk about what you talk about or what you think about when you’re running, and loads of people manage it or deal with it in different ways. As I touched on a little bit earlier, when I run or when I’m preparing for a run, I don’t think about anything. I don’t focus on anything, I just kind of run. A perfect way to describe it is, have you ever just sat in front of your television or sat in front of your computer and let something stream? You can hear the music, you can hear the television but it’s just background noise; that is a perfect example of what I do when I run.
Ah, like white noise?
Yeah, it’s just white noise, it’s just white noise. So before I go for a run, or should I say, before a marathon, I will plug my headphones in, listen to drum n bass, lots of deep breathing, lots of meditative stuff, and then take my headphones out, stick it away and just run, and run. And then when things get hard, I just run some more. I tend to have this streaming show reel of all of the amazing things that I’ve been through, all of the things that I’ve done, but at the same time, I have what I like to call a poo box, which is just really bad things that have happened that I’ve managed to overcome. Like I did the Florence Marathon a couple of years ago and I think just towards the end, both of my adductors and abductors seized up at the same time, both of them locked up and I literally dropped to my knees in between two cars, burst into tears and I had to drag myself up. Now I’m like if I can finish something like that…
It’s like you know that nothing as bad as that can ever happen.
Yeah. And until something does happen, you’ve just got to keep running. I did a training run with someone who I think the furthest they’d run was like 11 miles but they’d come out to do an 18-mile training run. So we got to ten miles and they were struggling, and they said to me, “Is this going to get any easier?” and I just looked at them, I went, “No.” And she was like, “Oh.” I was like, “You weren’t expecting that, you were expecting me to lie, weren’t you?” I said, “It’s only going to get harder,” I said, “but all you have to do is own the fact that it’s going to get harder and just manage that.” And I think that’s the same thing that I do when I run a marathon or when I’m doing something stupid. It’s like for four hours or for four and a half hours, or for however long, this is going to hurt, but when I finish, I’m going to feel amazing. But for those four hours, this is going to hurt.
Because it’s temporary, right?
Yeah, because it’s temporary. You’ve just got to get on with it, and that’s kind of how I focus. My focus is break it down into smaller bits. Yeah, I might have 15 miles to go but all I’m interested in is getting to that next lamppost, or all I’m interested in is getting to mile 21 to see Jules so I can kiss her little face. Or all I’m interested in is getting to the finish line and seeing my mum. All of those things, that’s what’s going through my head, that’s kind of what gets me through.
Aside from running, a big part of the aftermath of Track Mafia is food. What are your go-to spots in London right now?
My go-to spots for London right now, there are a number of them, and I would say it all depends on what sort of food you are after. So if it’s like coffee and kind of snacks or something like that, we normally go to our favourite place, which is Two Doors Down in Camden for amazing cake, amazing coffee. If we are going for something lunchy, we love to go to Busaba, Bao, Joes, Chicken Shop, Guanabana, Pho, Bonedaddies. If we’re after like cake or something, we go to Gail’s. There’s loads of places.
Lots of spots.
And, On the Bab? You always insta that one.
Yeah. On The Bab Old Street is absolutely amazing.
Perfect lunch is on.
So the BlackPrint is Track Mafia’s own printed publication by the people for the people. What does this communicate to runners globally?
I think the BlackPrint communicates to runners globally that there are people out there that are like them. There are people out there who aren’t what people would define as just normal, everyday runners or athletes, because for whatever reason, people get quite intimidated by the prospect of embracing discomfort. They get quite intimidated by the prospect of running a little bit harder than they’re used to. And the BlackPrint for us was all about showing people that you can take running seriously, you can take athletics seriously, you can take fitness seriously, but you can also eat what you want within reason, you can also drink coffee, you can also go out and have fun and you can also just live life the way that you want to live life. Now, there are loads of publications out there which are absolutely awesome, and we know quite a few of the people who run these publications in the space that we all share, and this isn’t a dig or an attack on their publications; this is just we wanted our own publication because we wanted our own voice. I say to people all the time; if you’re not fully connected to what is out there then why don’t you create something for yourself to connect to. And a lot of people kind of said to me, “Oh, but is it sustainable, you know, it’s print,” and to be honest with you, for me, we are doing this for the love, not for sustainability. We’re doing this because it’s something for us, for the people, its our own outlet. This is what we wanted to do. And… yeah, it’s here.
So you guys have the hottest kit.
You do. How can we get our hands on some…
Oh it’s locked up?
To be honest with you, the kit that we have, the full kit is literally just for team members. When I say team members or teammates, it’s people that are part of the team that we discussed earlier. I’m not saying everybody else isn’t part of the team but the people that run Track Mafia from the inside, that’s who the kit is for. So all of the stuff that we have, ten pieces are only ever done.
And I guess that’s a thank you for them contributing as much as they do.
Yes. Those are the ten pieces that we do and then all of the other stuff that we do, we only ever do a run of either 30 or 50 and it’s literally first come first served. We will probably have some more shirts out in a couple of weeks, couple of months, maybe a year. Who knows? Actually I’m lying, new tees for everybody will be here in the summer.
Will that be on a website or a big cartel or… how can we get our hands on those?
So in order for you to get hold of some of our t-shirts, all you have to do is go onto the Instagram or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Awesome. Who would you like Track Mafia to collaborate with in the future? Are there any athletes that you’d like to share the knowledge? Like, what’s up your sleeves for the rest of 2016?
I know this is going to sound like a really weird answer but the reason why we do the things that we do… hold on, how can I rephrase this? Everything that we do at Track Mafia or the BlackPrint, before it happens, it’s a secret. But what is happening over the rest of the year is obviously Issue 2 of the BlackPrint will be coming out, which is going to be absolutely awesome, and we’re hoping to continue to collaborate with the brands that we are already collaborating with. We’re working on a few other partnerships and athletes-wise, to be honest with you, we just want to keep working with the people who have exactly the same attitude that we have, and that is sport is for everyone, athletics is for everyone, and it’s not a monopoly.
It’s open to all.
Yeah, of course it’s open to all. This is the thing that I don’t seem to understand. We get a lot of people that come to us and they kind of say, “Ah, your Instagram is ever so slightly intimidating, as in you’re always talking about, you know, people doing this or people doing that,” and I’m like, “We’ll the reason why it’s like that is because we want the people that come to our sessions to come for the right reasons.” We don’t have our sessions for people who just want to come and take pictures. We don’t want people there on some Instagram or some social media or some Facebook hype. Like you come, you graft, you take pictures, you smile. If you’ve come not to work then it’s not for you, and I’m very, very straight and strict with that, as in come to work, don’t come to hang out. There’s no VIP section at Track Mafia. You turn up, you run, you work hard, but you laugh, and that’s why people keep coming back, because even though we didn’t set out to build a community, we have and that community is part of a much bigger picture. There’s no selfishness, it’s, everyone runs, and to be honest with you, if you’re not running with me, I don’t really care; as long as you’re running with somebody else and you’re having a good time, that’s cool. I’m tired of politics and nonsense. Let’s just get on with it, let’s just run. Be happy. Seriously, smile.
Oh, is that it?
That was awesome. Done did it.
Whoever you are, bring the heat and get outside this summer at www.trackmafia.co.uk
Text: Tilly Stasiuk @you_got_this_tils