“And as somebody who was a young adult with a still developing mind, that messed up my personality, how I was developing, and how I interacted with people.”
City Leader, Midnight Runners San Francisco
If you head down to San Francisco’s Patriot House Pub on any given Wednesday evening, you’ll be greeted by an outgoing, bubbly, and welcoming woman with a bright smile and a pink armband. Zoe Jordan is one of the city leaders for the San Francisco Midnight Runners, and she’s been using her loud, infectious energy to lead hundreds of runners on MR’s signature boot camp party runs every week for the last three and a half years.
What may surprise many regular MRSF attendees, however, is that this fun-loving, outgoing persona is relatively new for Zoe. After an emotionally traumatic experience in college in which a friend unexpectedly passed away, she became much more introverted and found herself feeling uncomfortable in new settings and meeting new people.
“I was one of one three people that knew how she passed away, and I couldn't tell anybody, and then I had to get on a plane and go be in an environment with completely new people,” she says. “And as somebody who was a young adult with a still developing mind, that messed up my personality, how I was developing, and how I interacted with people.”
Seven years later, Midnight Runners provided Zoe with an opportunity to reconnect with the extraverted side of herself that she had lost. It allowed her to bring out a side of her that she couldn’t previously, and gave her a place to be carefree, loud, and energetic.
“When my friends from law school would come to Midnight Runners, they would say ‘we have never seen a Zoe like this before! We’ve never seen her be this talkative, outgoing, or loud.
Hearing her friends say that made Zoe realize that she’s able to be more of her authentic self now, both during and outside of Midnight Runners. “You can truly be yourself at a Midnight Runners event because there is such a freedom of expression and inclusivity there,” she says.
So how did she get here? Zoe went for her first run with the group in April 2019, and like most people who experience MR for the first time, she remembers thinking it was unlike any experience she’d had before. Although the group was much smaller then, it still had that unique, inclusive, and infectious energy that’s become the hallmark of every Midnight Runners event across the globe. She must have had just as much of an impact on the Midnight Runners crew captains as they did on her, because the very next day they asked her to be a captain.
“I hung out with Gabe (global head of community at MR) the next day and he asked me to be a leader in the community. I told him ‘You don't even know me! ’ and he was like, ‘well, I just have a good feeling about you,’” she says.
“I think that’s what made me say yes to it and want to lead the community.”
City Leader, Midnight Runners San Francisco
She’d had a lot of leadership roles during her college and law school days, but like so many people, those opportunities had dried up after graduation. This not only seemed like a good way to flex those leadership muscles again, but Zoe felt as though she had some skills that she hadn’t used in a while that she could offer the community. As she became more involved in the group in the coming weeks, she began to realize just how unique the Midnight Runners environment is. She began to feel a responsibility to ensure that experience continued to be available to the people in San Francisco.
Zoe became a city leader while she was also dealing with torn MCL, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It was a difficult time for her on so many fronts, but she and the rest of the team remained steadfast in their commitment to their community.
“We decided we were gonna stick with it, no matter whether we were running with groups of 10 or groups of 30 or not running at all and just meeting online to hang out,” she says. “I think everybody knew that if we were patient and just kind of rode it out that we would be just fine at the end of it. Now we have 150 people coming out on Wednesdays.”
Zoe acknowledges that coming out of COVID has been really tough for a lot of people in their community. Everyone is trying to figure out their space again, returning to socializing again, re-determining their boundaries, and looking for safe spaces to connect with others. In many ways, that’s what made it the perfect time to transition the group onto Heylo. The app, she says, allows people to connect in the ways they want to connect.
“The transition over to Heylo was rather seamless because it could do everything that we needed to do,” she says. “So it was really easy for our crew to adapt to.”
The San Francisco Midnight Runners generate a lot of noise and excitement in the city that cannot be missed. They draw a diverse crowd of runners, from complete beginners to ultra trail runners. Many newcomers are intimidated at first, concerned they may not have the fitness to keep up with the group, but Zoe will be the first to tell them they have nothing to worry about.
“It's the fear of the unknown here but I can guarantee you that if you come you will have an experience you’ve never had before, and if you don't try, then you're never going to know,” she says. “I tell a lot of people to come and run as far as they can, and then leave when they want to leave. The next time, come and try to go another stop further.”
She emphasizes that at Midnight Runners, you can come as you are without fear of judgment. No one cares about how fast you are, how fit you are, whether you’ve run marathons, or if this is your first experience with the sport. There’s a space for anyone who’s willing to come out and try, and you have the Midnight Runner guarantee that you’ll have fun doing it. This is what keeps Zoe coming back week after week.
“By no means is it easy to lead a community, but I think the thing that has always kept bringing me back over the past three and a half years is the experience I get to help create for other people,” she says. “When times are hard or when we're dealing with some difficult things, first and foremost my priority is our community here in San Francisco and that they are connected.”
There’s no doubt that the San Francisco Midnight Runners is a thriving, connected group, and you only have to run with them one time to see that Zoe and her team are absolutely accomplishing that mission.