As a group of joggers barreled down Locust Walk this Friday, heads turned. Maybe it was because of the complex maneuvers it took to get around the crowds. Or, maybe it was because of the lecture on blockchain technology that was happening in the middle of the jogging group.
Ideas in Motion is a monthly short lecture series and Q&A that takes place while the speaker and the audience jog together. “It’s like a TED Talk, while running,” the flyers say.
Ideas in Motion is an initiative of the Annenberg (Lunchtime) Running Club, a jogging club that, despite its name, doesn’t always meet at lunchtime and doesn't only have members affiliated with the Annenberg School for Communication.
Assistant professor Matthew O’Donnell and Digital Design Specialist Kyle Cassidy, both of the Annenberg School, started the group in early 2016. At that time, a few people from Annenberg would gather to run every one to two weeks when they were available.
Now, the group is more structured. Currently, four to seven runners from different academic departments attend each run, which now take place three times a week, usually during lunch. They occasionally meet before or after work, and typically not for longer than an hour. The club hopes to continue expanding, especially with the Ideas in Motion initiative.
Ideas in Motion launched its pilot event on Sept. 25 with professor Emily Falk introducing the series with a lecture on how the brain works while running.
On Friday, third-year Ph.D. student Zane Cooper was the Ideas in Motion speaker, discussing the implications of blockchain technology as the group made laps around Penn Park.
The concept started while Cassidy and O'Donnell went running together over the summer. They said they had the idea to host short, TED Talk-style lectures during some of the club’s regular runs, which then turned into the Ideas in Motion series.
Fifth-year communication Ph.D. candidate Natalie Herbert added that even before the Ideas in Motion series began, runners would talk about their work or research during the jogs anyway.
Future Ideas in Motion events will have both running and walking lectures as well as light refreshments for participants. November’s running lecture will discuss the ways ideas spread through human networks, while the walking lecture will discuss numbering systems in ancient Mesopotamia.
Cooper said that the club's composition of students, staff, and professors allows participants to meet people with whom they might not otherwise interact.
"Having a lunchtime running club is a great thing because it builds camaraderie and it forces you to take a break in the middle of the day and just take care of yourself,” Cooper said.
Those without running experience can join, and anyone — from Annenberg, from Penn, or from Philadelphia in general — can join.
In the past, the group has trained for 5Ks and the 10-mile Broad Street Run. Herbert said, however, it’s not the speed that matters — it’s being active.
“There are lots of opportunities to eat badly on a university campus all around noon,” Cassidy said. “It started as a way to sort of avoid those temptations and get out and do some exercise and have people who are accountable to other people.”
The group has also grown into a community.
“We have this policy of ‘no man left behind,'” Herbert said. “The whole idea is we are running with the slowest runner.”
After 30 minutes of jogging and discussing blockchain, Cooper and the group returned to Annenberg plaza and surprised Cooper with a birthday card and an out-of-breath rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
“There’s so much satisfaction about continuing to put on the shoes, continuing to put the work in even if you’re not seeing results in terms of pace,” Herbert said. “We have a group, a community, and that’s kind of all the impetus I need for continuing to run.”