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all faces, all paces: an interview with O.P.A.C. founder lionel brahim brodie

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Here's a convo we had with Lionel Brahim Brodie, founder of O.P.A.C.

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Lionel Brahim Brodie is the founder of O.P.A.C., an inclusive and competitive collective of runners in Philly.

Ian Campbell is the founder of eseo, an app working to create a thriving community of athletes in Philadelphia.

Lionel and Ian sat down to chat about O.P.A.C., the importance of inclusivity in athletics and how the group has evolved over the years.

What is O.P.A.C.?

O.P.A.C. stands for Original Propaganda Athletic Club. We were founded in 2012 and are coming up on our 10th anniversary.

We began to create a safe space for runners and athletes of all faces and all paces. That’s become our mission and our rallying cry. We started as a small, Philly-based group, and our focus right now is on providing everyone in our OPAC family with an Olympic-level experience. 

Regardless if you’re an ultra-marathon runner, a couch-to-5Ker; if you’re coming out to walk or if you’ve qualified for Olympic trials; our goal is to use our connections, resources, and support to ensure everyone is having an equal and equitable experience.

What made you want to start O.P.A.C.? 

I started running on a drunken dare, to be honest. I told a coworker at Villanova that I would join her on her run. I was heavily involved in some vodka tonics at the time, so I assumed we would both forget.

I was wrong. She showed up at my hotel room the next morning and off we went. It was about a mile and a half non-stop. People talk about that euphoric ‘runner's high’ and, let me tell you, that’s a real experience. 

Afterwards, when I was Director of Athletic Equipment for Villanova University Athletics, I was involved in all of our athletic partnerships. I read a publication that highlighted Run Dem Crew and Bridge Runners, and the communities they built around running. 

I wanted to start something like that in Philly, to give adults a chance to be on a team again. So I started Villanova Run Crew, the predecessor of O.P.A.C.. Over the years, it evolved to be what it is today. 

It was silly of me to think that running could ever be complete without community. It’s like an organism—it involves many working parts and evolves like any living thing. The running piece of O.P.A.C. has never been completed, which is awesome because that means the journey will never be done. 

When it comes to our mission—all paces, all faces—I inherited that from the groups that came before me. The Run Dem Crew, the Bridgerunners, the Black Roses, and Three Run Two, were all saying that to be inviting to all athletes that showed up.

What keeps you going after all these years? 

When it started, I was in a business mindset. It was a passion project that became a career. It's something I love. 

First, it was all about the community, then it became about the brand. Now, it’s transitioned to be more about the runners again, the community and family. 

Over the course of nine years, it kept evolving. It never got boring. The landscape, the people, and the stories keep changing. We see what other groups are doing and get inspired by them. And get competitive—we want to do what they're doing, but better. 

So, there's the challenge of running the business, but there's also the passion for running itself. It saved my life. I went from a diet of Doritos and Coors Light to focusing on something wholesome. 

Running is such a challenge. Every time you go out to run, you get a chance to rewrite your resume. It will never be the same as the day before. 

For example, I stopped playing sports at a young age because I started growing vertically instead of horizontally, which squashed my dreams of becoming a basketball player. But with O.P.A.C., it was something I created. I get to watch how it impacts other people. The team. The family. The challenge. It pushes me and keeps me going. 

Mentally, spiritually, and physically—going for a run kicks your ass, and I love that. It's the same with O.P.A.C. 

As a leader, how do you make sure there truly is a place for everyone? 

Honestly, we struggle with that. It’s a challenge to run a community that both accepts and challenges people. We want a person who wants to walk and a person who wants to rip to both get something out of it. We don't want anyone to be intimidated or annoyed, and at the end of the run, we want everyone to have that fellowship and congratulate each other.

The good thing for us is that our run club leaders are great at feeling out the vibe. They let people do what they want. But it is challenging. You have people who end up at the back of the pack, and you have people who just want to haul ass. You have to be mindful of both. That's the challenge for a lot of groups.

Luckily, the more you grow, the more paces you can accommodate. It’s hard with fewer people, but the bigger we get, the more room we have for everyone.

eseo + Run The Day

How are you celebrating your ten-year anniversary? 

We’re doing two celebrations. On July 7th, we are doing a group run from lululemon on Walnut Street. We’re going to meet at 6:45 AM and run at 7:00.

On July 9th, we’re doing a brunch party at Independence Beer Garden at noon. We’re excited to have a gathering, some beverages, a good meal, and just enjoy each other.

What's your vision for where O.P.A.C. will go in the future? 

We want to make Philly a place where runners are excited to go, not just as a contingency plan to make up for some mistakes you made in another city or another run. We want you to run Philly because it’s a great place to run.

You can follow O.P.A.C. on Instagram or join their Facebook group for updates on group runs and other events. 

At eseo, we’re dedicated to creating a thriving community of athletes in Philadelphia. From hikers to spikers, golfers to goalies—if you can move, you’re an athlete. Download the app to become a part of our team!

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Here's a convo we had with Lionel Brahim Brodie, founder of O.P.A.C.