Plenty of gyms offer workouts with virtual scenery. You can (stationary) bike through the forest and (treadmill) jog around the Grand Canyon. But running coach Marnie Kunz thinks that New York City has plenty to keep you entertained while you exercise without resorting to virtual reality. She created Runstreet, where she offers group runs on city streets, stopping to admire street art along the way. While you sip water and catch your breath, she talks about the artists and the meanings of the murals and graffiti you might otherwise fly by. The flame-haired sprinter chatted with us about her art on the run.
How did Runstreet start? I’m a writer and I was doing a lot of freelance work in St. Louis for other websites and businesses. So I thought I should start my own site about something I love, which is running. I ran cross country and track in junior high, high school, and college and have been running ever since. [But once I had this idea] I got certified to be a running coach and then started Runstreet as a running site. I wanted it to be informative, aesthetically pleasing, and fun, not like the stuffier running publications I had grown up reading.
When I brought Runstreet to New York from St. Louis five years ago, it took on a new direction as my street art photos from my runs on my Instagram generated a lot of interest. People asked me where I found so much art, and I decided to do organized art runs. Now Runstreet focuses on blending art and running to educate people on the amazing art in our cities and also to encourage people to get out and have fun while staying healthy.
Do you have a background in art? My background is in creative writing, but my mom is an artist and I’ve always admired art in many forms, from dance to makeup to cinema to street art. I am fascinated by color and how street art uses color and form to create beauty and add meaning to otherwise mundane walls and objects. When I moved to New York City, I fell in love with the street art I saw on my runs. I’ve lived in three boroughs here and have been lucky to see so much amazing art in all of them.
What kind of people typically join your runs? Do you have to be a confident runner? We get a wide range of runners. Some are beginners who want to do a fun run, some are training for the NYC Marathon, and all of them are open-minded and interested in street art. Some are even kids and dogs! It’s definitely a laid-back, fun environment that is open to everyone. We stop a lot for photos and laugh a lot, so it’s not intimidating. After the runs, many people come up to me saying they had no idea there is so much amazing art here. Some say they even run through the same areas but had missed the art. It makes me happy to be able to add some inspiration to people’s runs. At the end of the day, most of us are running for fitness and fun, not gold medals, so it’s great to have a way to enjoy our runs and appreciate beautiful art in the process.
What are some of your favorite street art works? I am a big fan of the artist Flood, who has an amazing new piece on Ludlow in the Lower East Side as well as a new mural in Gowanus, Brooklyn. I also love Phoebe New York—she is all over SoHo and the Lower East Side, and I am excited to go run by Phoebe’s new work in Long Island City. I’m enamored with the new Logan Hicks mural on the Bowery graffiti wall as well. I love so much of the art at Welling Court in Queens and the Bushwick Collective as well.
Have you established relationships with any street artists? No, I have commitment issues… ha ha. I have become friends with some of the artists. I’ve been doing a blog series where I profile different artists and I’ve been lucky to get to know them through that avenue as well as from attending street art shows and events. I make a lot of connections through my Instagram, where I tag the artists in my posts and many respond, which is always exciting.