HUMBOLDT PARK — It could be their eye-catching logo and T-shirts or their punny name, but one of the founders of the Three Run Two running group says its success really just comes down to friendly people.
"People come out and they realize first and foremost it's about having a good time," said Nicolas Bernal. "Nobody's judging you. Nobody's like 'oh I ran faster than you' or 'oh, I ran farther than you."
The group, founded by Bernal, his sister and a friend in January, does three runs a week — Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings around Humboldt Park, Logan Square and West Town, and a longer one on the lake path on Saturdays on Sunday.
Participants can run as fast — or as slow — as they like. and as long as they like. On Thursday's they return to their meeting place of Dunlays in Logan Square and enjoy some "guilt-free" beers.
"At this point, it's like so much bigger than running," Bernal said."I've made a ton of new friends this year. Running is just like this vehicle that has brought so many people together."
A few years ago, the 35-year-old corporate engagement specialist and Humboldt Park resident couldn't even see himself as a runner, let alone the founder of a neighborhood running group that attracts upwards of 60 runners on Thursday nights.
"I just sort of fell into it, and I just got really into it," he said.
He started in 2009 and ran his first marathon in 2010. He was soon making runner friends, but found he wanted to bridge the gap between them and his non-runner pals.
So he emailed some buddies with the idea of a no-pressure jog around the neighborhood.
"The first one, it was very lax," he said. "I was just like, 'hey do you want to run some laps around Humboldt Park, and we can grab some beer and tacos after?'"
And so, Three Run Two was born.
About 20 of the Three Run Two runners will be running in Sunday's marathon, including Margaret Howe, who came upon the group in March.
Or rather, it came upon her.
"I live in Logan Square and was out for a run out by myself when someone came up behind me and was like, 'do you need a partner to run with?' and I was like, 'uh, no,'" she said with a laugh.
But that woman continued to run alongside Howe and told her all about Three Run Two.
Soon the 28-year-old nonprofit worker was hooked.
"It's very motivating to have other runners that are going through the same thing as you," Howe said."There's a lot of weird and funny things that runners go through, and it's fun to have someone to talk to about that."
Though she'd already been planning on running this year's marathon, Howe found that the Three Run Two group helped her improve on her training.
"Once I started running with the group I think I did a lot better," she said. "Like my pacing got better because I was running with people that are a lot faster."
Though Bernal said the group will likely take a few weeks off their Tuesday morning runs after the marathon, they'll still meet up every Thursday, even through the dead of winter.
And of course, there will be a huge party after the race Sunday.
"We're going to have beer, pizza — and some more beer," he said with a laugh.