During the day, the steps of the Tennessee Capitol can be busy with lawmakers, staffers and journalists running around trying to make it on time to meetings.
But at night, there’s a different kind of running.
On a rainy Thursday night, James Crumlin is giving instructions to about 15 people huddled in a semicircle on the right side of the Tennessee Capitol. They wear headlights and neon colors.
The 90-step staircase beside them is the hallmark of the Capitol Steps Workout, which participants run up and down repeatedly.
They also do sprints, jumping jacks, push-ups and other free of weight exercises.
Crumlin, who has led the group for six years, ran multiple marathons before then he used to train by himself.
“A friend of mine in 2012 said, ‘Hey, come out to these steps, let’s run ’em. Let’s do our training out here,’ ” Crumlin said.
And then, other friends started showing up.
“Next thing you know we were like, ‘OK, we need to invite some people to join us,’ ” Crumlin said. “So it has really turned into a grassroots effort.”
Kristen Willocks was invited by her friend Tonya to join the group years ago. Her family members have become regulars.
“Every workout that we’ve had in the last five years, one member of the Willocks family has been there,” Crumlin said.
“At least,” Willocks adds.
Crumlin said those who come to this workout are welcoming. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, said regular attendee Alex Frierson.
“It hurts, it’s painful. I hate coming out here every time I come out here,” Frierson said. “I’m not going to lie to you. But it’s worth it.”
During the summer, around 60 to 100 people work out at the capitol steps. And Crumlin says one of the best things is seeing how, even in the struggle, participants lift each other up.
And even when they are in front of an iconic political landmark, he says, they don’t talk politics.