London's Most Mysterious Track Club

Track Mafia is composed of a group of individuals who are anything but ordinary runners. Here, their story and a workout for the track.

Cory Wharton-Malcolm
38, certified running coach and co-founder of Track Mafia

“Tell No One.” That’s the latest directive from Cory Wharton-Malcolm (AKA “Beefy” as he’s affectionately known), certified running coach and co-founder of Track Mafia, a London-based running club. “The first thing that everyone does when there is some kind of event is talk about it on social media,” says Wharton-Malcolm with an audible eye roll. “We are going back to being really, really old school where the reward of running is simply the peace of mind that you have done something good for yourself.

When the team does post on social (they only “go dark” for certain events), they’re sharing their track workouts, gritty action shots, and more, via their handle @TrackMafia, in order to weed out the people who are looking to join for the wrong reasons. The whole thing is inspiring if not intimidating. That’s intentional. But once you arrive at a meet—which happen on Thursday evenings at Paddington Recreation Grounds—you’ll fit right in so long as you’re willing to venture outside of your comfort zone: “The regulars will look after newbies and I make sure that I explain how it all works. We tell them that they’re only ever 400 meters from safety,” says Wharton-Malcolm with a laugh.

Pushing past the intimidation factor as well the pain of sprinting and the post-track core workout is well worth the effort. “Our goal was never to become faster but to become stronger, more efficient, and better at managing discomfort. Speed was a bi-product of that as everyone has gotten recognizably faster,” says Wharton-Malcolm. (Anyone can come and run with TrackMafia, but to be part of the core team, people are invited based on a number of things. “Most importantly, we look for attitude, a willingness to embrace discomfort, and of course, those with an eye for the outlandish and ridiculous,” says Wharton-Malcolm.)

If you’re wondering what sets Track Mafia apart from all the other running crews out there (TM is actually an off-shoot of London’s Run Dem Crew), it’s this: “Honestly, it’s the vibe,” says Wharton-Malcolm. “The exercises, the drills, the language we use—it’s all geared towards engaging a different demographic who, for whatever reason, wouldn't end up at a traditional running club.” That group of running “misfits”—about 30 regulars and growing—has formed friendships and even relationships off the track. Wharton-Malcom himself can thank running and Track Mafia for his relationship with girlfriend and co-founder Julia Good. Perhaps the upward trajectory of Track Mafia members is a reflection of the growing running scene in London in general: “More brands are offering run clubs, gyms are offering runs as a bolt onto memberships, and others are finding innovative ways to engage another demographic that's more interested in running as part of something as opposed to a stand-alone activity.”

But in the end, it all comes down to the love of running. “The reason we started this and the reason I will continue to do it is because it’s fun,” says Wharton-Malcolm. “I think that's one of the most important things: if you don't enjoy what you are doing, if it’s not fun, it’s not exciting, then why do it?”

“What really excites me is how many different things are going on. What excites me is people's willingness to give things a go. What excites me is the unknown, the ability to do what makes me smile—and make others smile—whilst helping people get fitter and somehow managing to make a living out of it.” -Cory Wharton-Malcom

Get a taste of Track Mafia without crossing the pond. Here, a full track workout, plus warm-up, and core exercise routine, courtesy of Wharton-Malcolm.

I. Warm-up

“A proper warm-up is transforming,” says Wharton-Malcom. “You’re activating the muscles you’re going to use during a training session.” Here, Jamie Moore, fitness manager at Equinox Kensington, demonstrates seven drills to do before a track session. Do 12 reps of each exercise in succession with little to no rest in between.

1. Low Kick
2. Mid Kick
3. High Knees
4. High Knees with Hip Abduction
5. Open the Gate
6. Fast Feet
7. Tuck Jump

II. Track Main Set
4 x 800 meters at threshold, 2 minutes recovery
400 meters all-out, 2 minutes recovery
300 all-out, 2 minutes recovery
200 all-out, 2 minutes recovery

III. Core Workout
“Your core is what holds you upright when sprinting and running,” says Wharton-Malcolm. “That’s the key, so building that core strength helps you be a stronger runner.” Click here to link out to 10 core-strengthening exercises for runners.

here, meet some of the track mafia crew

justin reid-simms justin reid-simms
Justin Reid-Simms
30, personal trainer

I love Track Mafia because...
"It gives me a focus for the week, educates me, inspires me, keeps me motivated, and continues to give me a chance to share in experiences that I could have only imagined with my teammates around me.”

Running in London is...
"The greatest way to see the city.”

My #1 get faster tip is...
"Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.”

I run because...
"It keeps me sane, and demonstrates the power of trusting in a process.”

My favorite post-meet meal is...
"Lentil Dhal with rice and a massive salad.”

The workout I dread the most is…
"10x400 can be a tough one to get through and fast pyramid workouts up to a 1600m are a real mental challenge.”

Music or no music? "No music. Sometimes I listen to podcasts or audiobooks for long endurance runs, but it’s nice to hear your feet hitting the ground and take notice of your breath.”

gabriella kelly
Gabriella Kelly
27, marketing and communications lead at a running apparel startup

I love Track Mafia because…
"It’s my family. I moved to London from New York City not knowing a soul. I sent a random email to this guy named Cory asking if I could drop by practice (I ran track & field in college and really missed it.) That email changed my life. It's been three years and I've traveled and run all over the world with TM."

Running in London is...
"Dynamic. This city is changing rapidly and you feel it when you go for a run: a Japanese hotel/restaurant concept will pop-up next to the local pub and there are artist residences being built in old coal yards."

My #1 get faster tip is...
"DRILLS. DRILLS. DRILLS. If we need to get specific about it, B-Skips."

gabriella kelly
gabriella kelly

I run because...
"Running is my self-preservation technique. When I'm on the track my mind goes into this meditation state. It's like my body is doing the work and I'm just along for the ride. That intense focus is not something I can conjure in any other environment. It's incredible."

My favorite post-meet meal is...
"It depends where in the world I am. The best part of racing in different countries is obviously the food. After racing a half-marathon in Lisbon, I had the most amazing seafood paella. Also a post-run pint is a tradition."

The workout I dread the most is...
"Mile repeats."

Music or no music?
"I only listen to music on the treadmill because the treadmill is hell."

gabriella kelly
tom flowers tom flowers
Tom Flowers
30, playworker for disabled children and tutor for children in TV and film

I love Track Mafia because...
"It has brought friends into my life that are irreplaceable and in a city like London where it can be pretty tough going it has given me a routine that subverts the life-work balance and has changed the concept of success or achievement is. It also lead me towards things I never realized I would be capable of, most recently running the Boston marathon surrounded by people associated with our little global community. I’m a timid kid at heart and to have friends across the globe still blows my mind.”

Running in London is...
"Like time travelling. From the grandiose palaces to the docklands... millionaires rows to communities and social housing, there are stories around every route you take."

My #1 get faster tip is...
"When its hurts? That is the moment to push. Always.”

I run because...
"It helps cultivate creativity within my mind and soul and manifests in physical wellbeing that helps me helps others. Whether that is children and adults with disabilities or my friends and family. It can inspire others without you really realizing because it is just what we love doing. The revolution will not be sedentary.” 

My favorite post-meet meal is...
"Roti, vegetarian curry, and black coffee or some sort of 'Tom’s mess,' which is essentially any and all left-overs fried in a pan with an egg over it. Food doesn't always have to look pretty. I have a weakness for cheese.”

The workout I dread the most is...
-"Thresholds. Nuff said."

Music or no music?
"Never music. I like hearing my breathing.”

julia good
julia good
Julia Good
27, writer
julia good

I love Track Mafia because...
"It's my home. I know every week I'll be surrounding by a group of people all looking for the same thing with no pretense. You show up, grind, smile and go home satisfied.”

Running in London is...
"A rollercoaster. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. The people and the pollution and the same old routes can get frustrating, but there are so many beautiful parts you just have to make a little extra time effort to get to.”

My #1 get faster tip is...
"SQUATS. Hate ‘em or love ‘em, just do them.”

julia good
Julia Good
27, writer

I run because...
"I need to. Running is my therapy. It's the best outlet for any kind of energy you have whether it's positive or negative.”

My favorite post-meet meal is...
"Nandos."

The workout I dread the most is...
"One-kilometer reps at race pace is my idea of hell."

Music or no music?
"A solo run always needs a soundtrack."

kai wright kai wright
Kai Wright
20 years old, disabled children’s play-worker and swim teacher

I love Track Mafia because…
" I’m a guy that works well when hyped up and Cory knows how to get the best out of me and the other runners, may that be through increasing speed or just enjoying ourselves."

Running in London is...
"hard and dangerous because of people and cars everywhere. But at the same time there’s nothing better than running across your city doing a distance most people can only do in a car."

My #1 get faster tip is...
"don’t be afraid to try new things like swimming and working out."

My favorite post-meet meal is...
"something filling."

The workout I dread the most is...
"I don’t dread any workout because you should only work out if you want to, but I would say strength training is one I look forward to the least."

Music or no music?
"When I’m alone I have a playlist of Sia, reggae, and other tracks but I keep one earphone out for safety on the streets."

Kristine Ostergaard Kristine Ostergaard
Kristine Ostergaard
26, freelance graphic designer and account executive at Decorum

I love Track Mafia because...
"TM is a place where I feel comfortable doing uncomfortable speed workouts. If you want to run faster, you have to work harder and the sessions always scare you at first but then you get on with it and afterward, you smile again feeling the post-track adrenalin rush.”

Running in London is...
"Amazing! Despite living in a city with many roads, green areas and beautiful parks are hidden everywhere and you can easily spice up your run trying new ways without necessarily making the run any shorter/longer."

My #1 get faster tip is...
"Rest well and eat properly.”

I run because...
"Running makes me feel free, alive, and happy. I sort my s*** on some runs, let my mind go its own way on others, or just to feel the sweat.”

My favorite post-meet meal is...
"There's hardly anything that beats a banana to me, but salmon and a colorful salad is usually my go-to.”

The workout I dread the most is…
"I don't dread any workouts.”

Music or no music? "No music. I find it awfully distracting.”