If you would have told 12-year-old Jon Lyons that he'd be heading one of the most popular running groups in Philadelphia, he probably would laughed.
"I hated running for a long time. I did track when I was in grade school, and it was the absolute worst," Lyons recalled.
But in his early 20s, Lyons had a change of heart.
"My daughter was born and I knew I needed to make smart decisions for her," said Lyons. "I wanted to do something to help me reboot. I put on running shoes, got the itch and never looked back."
Nearly five years later, Lyons founded RUN215, arguably the most popular running group in Philadelphia. The group is a forum for runners to organize runs, post events, and connect with other runners of every level.
The idea for RUN215 came to Lyons a little over a year ago.
"I would post on my Facebook page asking if anyone wanted to go for a run and all I would get back were those typical snarky responses from my friends," Lyons recalled. "One day I was on the phone with my girlfriend and I said that's it, I'm making a group on Facebook for runners to post runs and meet up. Originally, I thought we'd make a few new friends; maybe a few years down the road we'd have a group of a couple hundred people."
Instead, the group exploded. Within two weeks, Lyons had a following of close to 300 people. Today, the Facebook page has nearly 1,600 very active members; posting and sharing any running information they can get their hands on.
"When I first set out, it was intended to be a place for people to find like minds to run with but now its this huge community-supported, self-sustaining group of amazing runners."
Lyons' new mission with RUN215 is to strip down the preconceived notions of what it is to be a "runner."
"You should run because it fulfills you," said Lyons. "You could be running for fitness, for a charity, for anything; whatever it does for you in the long term, find the meaning in why you run and just go after it."
What can we expect down the road from this growing group?
"I'm really looking to take it to the next level and to get runners involved in positive ways. Right now, I'm working on an initiative to promote safe running practices. In April, we'll have our first Run Clean initiative with pop-up trail and road cleaning. I just feel like, if we're going to use these roads, we should be doing our part to help keep them clean."