How Rockwell Run Club is Transforming Lives One Run at a Time

The Runner’s High: How Rockwell Run Club is Transforming Lives One Run at a Time

Rockwell Run Club founder Ashley Cayuca knows what makes this club special: the community.

Metro Manila has no shortage of fitness clubs. From cycling to running, various communities get together regularly to do what they are passionate about. Some go on long-distance runs, others meet up before sun-up to bike hundreds of kilometers on the weekend — and they all look like pros while doing it. This is why it came as a shock to discover that Ashley Cayuca, the founder of the fast-growing Rockwell Run Club, couldn’t run more than a hundred meters just a little over one year ago.

“I hated running,” were Ashley’s surprising opening words to our conversation.

“I played sports all my life, I played basketball since third grade until college in La Salle, so for me running was like a consequence. During training, if we didn’t shoot a free throw, for example, coach would be like, Run! 17s! Planting rice! So I hated running and I was bad at it.”

Many share the same sentiment towards running. But what changed for Ashley? In 2023, she was in a tough spot in her life.

“Last year, I was lost. I was going through a lot and I didn’t know what to do,” she shared. And as a lifelong athlete, Ashley wanted something that would push her outside of her comfort zone.

What better way to do this than to lean in the direction of the very activity she had despised for years?

Running, in theory, is simple enough; put on a pair of shoes and hit the road. But quickly, Ashley remembered why she hated it in the first place. She admitted that when she would go out for her first few runs, she would already start to walk after a few hundred meters. “You tend to cheat when you’re running alone, right? So I thought, you know what? I need an accountability partner.

“So, I messaged some neighbor friends…In the first run, there were five of us, and everyone was my friend. I just invited them and I started posting about it every week. And other people just started showing up,” Ashley shared with a big smile on her face.

And so, Rockwell Run Club, a community that draws over a hundred people to their casual runs and now has thousands of followers on their social media pages, was born a year ago today.

Growing organically

Ashley Cayuca started the Rockwell Run Club with no agenda in mind. All she wanted to do was run and find people she could do it with, so she created an Instagram and posted an announcement, calling Rockwell residents to join her and a small group of friends for a three-kilometer run.

That first post led to Rockwell Run Club’s first-ever run on May 23, 2023. Five people showed up, and for Ashley, this was enough.

“I couldn’t run more than one kilometer before, so we started with around three kilometers muna.” But from this point on, every run was a milestone in her journey, and so through her new Instagram account, she started posting about their runs. On top of sharing photos of their small group boasting a post-run glow, she also started to share the schedules of when their group would run next, inviting anyone to join.

To her surprise, people started showing up.

Rockwell Run Club
(Photo by Kevin Cayuca)

“I started posting about it every week and people started showing up and I was like okay, I’m going to take this seriously because they’re feeling the same sentiments I’m feeling. I’m not alone. People just want to run with someone, with a friend, so they can be better at running. So that’s how it started,” she recalled.

From there, their group started going on what she calls “easy runs” twice a week. And even when people began showing up, she still had low expectations — she expected maybe just 10 people per run. But it eventually grew into much more than that.

Less than a year after the Rockwell Run Club was formed, they reached over a hundred runners for a single run.

“We just grew organically,” Ashley shared, reflecting on the year that had passed. “We just shared the truth about what we were going through, and what I love about our club is that it’s not competitive. It’s more about the community for us.

“With us, we welcome everyone. If you’re not a runner, we’re here to walk with you. I think that’s why people naturally fell in love with our community because they didn’t feel forced, they didn’t feel like you have to be the fastest, so I think that’s a huge thing why people continuously show up because we noticed that once they attended, they’d keep showing up. We always have repeat runners.”

But what is it like to run with a run club?

Supporting all kinds of goals

When Ashley Cayuca started Rockwell Run Club, her first-ever post already revealed what she envisioned for the club, as the caption read, “This 3k run is all about enjoying the journey and taking it easy with a comfortable pace.”

A year later, and this is exactly what the club is all about — enjoying the journey with like-minded individuals.

Ashley got what she wanted right from the get-go: someone other than herself to hold her accountable for completing her runs. But on top of this, another thing Ashley values the most about the people who have joined the club is how everyone is open to helping one another in their fitness journeys.

Rockwell Run Club members
(Photo by Kevin Cayuca)

“People started showing up and seasoned runners started showing up, and so they started helping me, teaching me. I’m not an expert runner, so I try to listen to the people who would join who actually are runners and they helped me,” she said.

“So, now we have a coach. After two months, there’s one person who showed up and he’s such an amazing person, and coach pala siya. Now, he’s one of the core leaders in the club. From the run club, I meet a lot of amazing people and seasoned runners and I learn from them.”

From someone who would start walking after a mere hundred meters, Ashley is now able to run up to 26 kilometers and is training for her first full marathon.

“Before, I was like, I’m happy with a half marathon. It’s tough. The training is intense, you have to run for three or four hours. But now, it actually opened my mind, it’s more of a mental game. Running is a mental game, so I just wanted to challenge myself and show myself I can do this.”

And Ashley is just one out of Rockwell Run Club’s many runners who are achieving their fitness goals through the community’s five runs a week.

In the past year, she has met many people who joined the club with no running experience at all, just like her, but with consistency and with the community’s just-show-up mindset, she has witnessed their growth first-hand. Some of them are now able to run half marathons.

“It’s like I see my children achieving,” Ashley said, beaming with a smile from ear to ear. “I feel like a proud mom, and some of them even tell me that we actually helped them. We also do training plans for them for free, and we’re there for them every step of the way.”

While the club has seen many success stories like these, Ashley emphasizes that Rockwell Run Club’s runs are open to runners with all kinds of experience levels and goals — whether you’re training for a full marathon or you just want to walk with your friends.

Rockwell Run Club
(Photo by Kevin Cayuca)

“If you’re a newbie and we notice that you’re a newbie and that you’re by yourself, I myself and other leaders approach them and ask, ‘Is it your first time joining us?’ Everyone is so friendly, and that helps.

“We don’t force people to join races. For example, we post in our group chat for those who want to be competitive, there’s a race, or an event, and whoever wants to join, just message us. And then the others, they just come to run for workout lang and you know for chika and coffee after — that’s actually my favorite part.”

Indeed, there is more to Rockwell Run Club’s DNA than just meeting up and running.

Chasing the runner’s high

When Ashley Cayuca talks about the Rockwell Run Club, she does so with a sparkle in her eyes that anyone who listens can immediately see just how much this community means to her.

“I’ve done so many things in my life, businesses and jobs, and this is the only thing that made me genuinely happy without earning anything,” she revealed. “It feels like a full-time job, posting, talking to people, inviting people, and now we even have partnerships…But I’m genuinely so happy that I can’t explain it.”

And she assures me that the community she’s built is full of even more Ashleys.

“I get random messages from people I don’t know telling me thank you for putting up this club because they were going through a lot when they joined and it helped them. Me myself I went through that too so I can feel them, so just that, I’m happy with that. It’s very fulfilling.”

Another passionate individual in Rockwell Run Club is Jett San Juan, a certified running coach who joined the community just a few months after their first-ever run. “We were just three months old last year and he randomly joined and he fell in love,” Ashley said.

“He talked to me and said, I want to help you. I can see potential with this club.”

Jett is now one of the club’s leaders. He plans the routes, plots the distances, and whenever runners have questions or if members are training for specific goals, he has become the go-to guy. And he does all of this without pay or recognition — just sheer passion.

Ashley also talks about another leader of the club who also happens to be a doctor with busy hours. “The other day, we attended the Spartan race, and this doctor leader, in the middle of the race, was on the phone with his assistant. He was running while working and it was so funny, but he just loves the club so much that even though he’s busy, he allots time and is always present.

“Don’t get me wrong, though,” Ashley said. “My goal for this run club is to be able to support the leaders…At the end of the day, they dedicate their hours and it’s not easy to run a run club, so my goal is to help them.”

Rockwell Run Club
(Photo by Kevin Cayuca)

By the time this story is published, it will have been exactly one year since the club’s first-ever run, which included just five runners. Today, they have over 9,000 followers on Instagram, their own merchandise, major partnerships, and an anniversary party coming up. Fitting, as this community has much to celebrate.

When asked what makes this community so successful, Ashley smiled and said, “Definitely the community. They have their own barkadas na, they meet after runs. And everyone I meet in this club, everyone is just so positive. If you’re having problems outside and you run with these people, it feels like a weight is lifted. That’s why they come back and that’s what people tell me…I think it’s a huge thing that they love the community and that’s how they get better at running. 

“They get support, and they love that there’s a community backing them up, they feel like they’re not alone, so I feel like that’s what entices them. It just feels like family.”

Images courtesy of Rockwell Run Club.

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