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Marnie Kunz was told she was too quiet to be a cheerleader in middle school. She admits she was too uncoordinated for ball sports. Cross country piqued her interest, especially because there were no tryouts. So she signed up, laced up her sneakers, and began running.
Little did she know running would become an integral part of her life even after all these years.
Kunz, an RRCA-certified running coach, is the founder of Runstreet Art Runs; created as a way to encourage runners (and non-runners) of all experience to enjoy their surroundings, especially in vibrant locations throughout New York City.
“After going for a run, it makes you appreciate the life and world around you,” Kunz said. “By highlighting street art, it makes people stop and notice that, too. It’s not just going through the motions and hitting 10 miles, for example, and not seeing anything around you. A lot of people are surprised and say things like, ‘I had no idea this was in my neighborhood.’ ”
Kunz’s running career has certainly evolved since first getting involved in the sport. She ran cross country and track in high school and ran cross country at Knox College, a Division III program, in Illinois. Running in college gave her something else to do besides drink in the small college town, she said with a laugh.
She wasn’t just running though. While Kunz made it a priority to beat her competition, she was also learning about running—its benefits, its motivational aspects, its sense of fulfillment. After reading Bobby McGee’s Magical Running: A Unique Path to Running Fulfillment, her perspective changed. It wasn’t so much about defeating an opponent as it was appreciating running as a whole.
“I used the book and its techniques to help me relax because I used to get nervous before races,” she said. “It helped me focus on some other factors, like feeling good, enjoying the run, and those things. I’ve incorporated all of those things into my running and coaching.”
The list of benefits of running, simply putting one foot in front of the other, is extensive. Running helps build self confidence, develops a healthy and active lifestyle, is a great way to lose weight, and lowers stress and anxiety.
It’s focusing on those positive aspects that is Kunz’s goal when she runs or teaches others, not just hitting certain times.
“It’s about making running fun and catering to different personalities,” Kunz said. “Sure, I can help you lose weight or prepare for a certain race, but what I’m really good at is helping people actually enjoy running and have fun.”
Kunz first came up with the idea for Runstreet while working as a freelancer in St. Louis. A writer by trade, she was doing work for other companies’ websites and thought she should create her own to showcase her love of running.
While Kunz doesn’t have an artistic background per say, save for her creative writing—though her mother is an artist—she appreciates creativity, whether it’s dance, makeup, street art or cinema. It’s why she wanted to make Runstreet aesthetically pleasing and fun, unlike other run-oriented sites already out there.
As the site’s audience and popularity grew, Kunz decided it would be beneficial to help guide runners through some of the places she had documented on her journeys. She’s conducted approximately 50 art runs in New York City, St. Louis, Miami, Boston, and Chicago. Typically three to four miles at approximately a 10-minute-per-mile pace, Kunz strategically maps out the routes for the art runs. She researches the accompanying street art and artists to talk about with her runners, who stop for selfies and photos rather just idly passing by.
“It opens people up,” she said. “After an art run, they’re kind of changed and can see art or artists elsewhere throughout the city. It’s always a lot of smiling; people are happy because of the run and the art, too.”