The Only Running Courier Service in the World

Last week, I ran 25 miles in and around San Francisco and — along the way — delivered eight handcrafted packages to friends and strangers (all for free).

This experiment was a lot of things: part exercise, part community-building, and part performance art. It was successful on all fronts. I ran farther and with more enthusiasm than I ever have, while making connections and reflecting on our San Francisco. I plan to continue.

This project’s success boiled down to delivering random items to nice people. Here are some photos of those to whom I delivered (friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends) with the contents of their packages.

Day 1 — Kian

  • Whole coconut (turns out Kian didn’t have a knife to open it…whoops!)
  • 18Rabbits bar
  • Banana

Day 2 — Alex

  • Textbook on semantics
  • Wine opener
  • Sticks with Nutella dip (mmm)

Day 3 — Shannon

  • Plastic dinosaur
  • T-shirt
  • Rainbow lei
  • A piece of my artwork (not pictured)

Day 4 — Me (Was recovering from a mean hangover)

Before and during a couple of my runs

Day 5 — Mike

  • Corona (that didn’t fizz when he opened it!)
  • Homemade BBQ brisket
  • Ream of office paper (for his brainstorm on Cutesyapp.com)

Day 6 — Molly

  • Colorful cactus
  • Screenprint by a California College of the Arts student

Day 7 — Janesh (left) and Eric (right)

  • Lyrics from poets who either lived or wrote about the Bay Area, handwritten in cursive

Zion I — The Bay

We was/known for 60’s/from panthers to hippies/now we known for/ murders, pimps, and 360’s

Joaquin Miller — passage from Song of the Sunlands

I am a pagan, heathen, lo! / A savage man, of savage lands; to quick to love, too slow to know / The sign that tame love understands / Or cold approaches pride demands

Mac Dre — Since ‘84

Since ’84 I been out here getting my dough / In the ‘Sco, the O, and Valley Jo / Getting rich in the Rich and San Jo

Otis Redding — (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay

Looks like nothing’s gonna change / Everything will remain the same / Can’t do what ten people tell me to do / So I guess I’ll remain the same
  • Janesh “paid it foward” with a book that I delivered to Eric (“The Alliance” by Reid Hoffman)

Day 8 — Kayla

  • A bunch of little lemons picked from my backyard
  • A working Iphone 1 (she runs a hardware/IoT startup called Moti so I thought she could hack it)

THE WHY

San Francisco is home to an increasing number of startups that move things (food, laundry, marijuana, packages, etc.) from Point A to Point B. This project arose out of a San Francisco-specific 2015 phenomena — the so-called “uberfication” of on-demand deliveries.

While thinking about this development my mind wandered to the word “courier” — the noun that is often used to describe the hard-working individuals who do the deliveries. As a French speaker, I made the connection to the verb “courir” — to run. A quick Google search later, I confirmed my hunch that courier and courir come from the same root, the Latin verb currere (to run).

The idea was now in my head: what if couriers literally ran packages? They don’t these days, because we have cars, bikes, scooters, public transportation… pretty much anything is faster and easier than running. But I could imagine a time when couriers ran messages and packages on foot (think Romans with short togas). I thought running packages was a nifty idea that could capture people’s imaginations and catalyze self-reflection about our everyday lives with small disruptions — delivered packages of random and arbitrary items.

I’m a runner with motivational issues; as much as I enjoy my runs, they become tedious and so I quit frequently. And so I’m always looking for motivation to run. My desire to stay in shape was one motivation.

But this experiment allowed me to explore how a higher purpose for my runs would impact my level of motivation. One higher purpose was to stage them in such a way that I could hang out with people – friends and strangers. That’s exactly what I needed to push through the excuses and aches that would also normally lead me to drop off my exercise routine. And I liked the human interaction in the middle or at the end of the run more than running with someone because it allowed me to go at my pace, to listen to music, and to think.

I discovered that people also liked when I showed up: they fed off of the energy I brought from my run. I also came bearing gifts — even when the package wasn’t particularly “valuable”, the act of giving was well-received. I felt a connection and shared values from those whom I met.

NOW WHAT?

As the week of the experiment wraps up, I wonder about if and how this project could grow beyond just me. I think of all of the people who run around this city, who are jazzed and curious about the serendipity of new connections, and how much fun it would be to build something around that curiosity and energy. I’m a pragmatist; it is inevitable that growing the project would require coordination and passion of not just me, but of other volunteers.

Another way to scale this project would be to mirror San Francisco’s delivery startups: make it into a business. Pay runners, pay a developer to create an app that connects runners and package recipients, and charge people to receive a hand curated package. That’s not happening. I stress the whimsical feel of the project.

Not only would a running courier startup probably fail; it is not in the spirit of the project. What makes this courier service different than the rest is that the primary currencies are self-improvement and human connection. It has less to do with the means of transportation — running — and more to do with the intention. This project’s model and operation will evolve, with others help and input, to maximize those outcomes.

If you’ve read this far, I ask you now: why are you interested in this project? I’d love your thoughts and feedback. Contact me via email with any questions or ideas: djosephgoteiner@gmail.com

GET INVOLVED TODAY

  1. Share this with your friends! It can be over social media, but word-of-mouth is even better.
  2. Sign up to get something delivered for free. No matter WHERE you are, I’ll try to match you with a friend who runs and lives close by.
  3. Sign up to run. Signing up isn’t a commitment, just a show of interest. Depending on your preferences, you can just deliver packages to people in your network. I can also try to connect you with others in your area as our database of interested recipients grows.

Still running,

David

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