January 12, 2018

Communication alumnus chases success with support of online social community


By Alisha Pillay

It was summer 2013 and communication alumnus Aimee Laurel was seeking a new adventure. As she scrolled through Instagram searching for inspiration, she came across a post that would reroute her career trajectory. Determined to take on a new challenge, she rounded up her girlfriends and started the Night Terrors – an evening running team that would take on the streets of downtown Toronto.

“I used to follow this illustrator on Instagram and she posted a photo of herself on a night run,” says Laurel. “I’m not a runner or anything but I thought the idea of running at night was so mischievous and fun. It really just started as a joke.”

Drawing on her expertise in communications and social media, Laurel created an Instagram handle for the run crew and started using community-relevant hashtags on each of her posts. This sparked the attention of a much wider audience and suddenly, people from across Toronto were commenting on her posts and asking how they could get involved.

The result? What had started as a joke had now turned into a buzzing social community for people wishing to experience running in a different way.

“We were one of the first social media running crews to exist and because there was an aesthetic and consistency to our posts, we grew in popularity and even got the attention of brands like Nike, Adidas and Lululemon.”

Since that summer, the Night Terrors has expanded into trail running, relay-racing and even training on the track. Laurel also established a team in LA in 2014 – a move that would eventually land her a spot on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine, alongside popular comedian and actor, Kevin Hart. Interested in featuring real runners from the community, the magazine saw Laurel as a perfect fit.

“There wasn’t an actual article written about us or anything but I was so grateful for the opportunity. As a kid growing up, I always felt like sports weren’t for me. I didn’t see ‘myself’ in any of the other kids who I saw running track. That’s why this is so significant. It’s about representation. I hope other girls see that cover and say, ‘I can run too! I can do that!’”

As for New Year’s resolutions, Laurel will be working on her speed this year and is training to run a sub-four-hour marathon. She also has plans to further her education. She recently moved to the UK to pursue a graduate degree in communications to explore how subcultures are built online.

“As an undergraduate student, I wish I would’ve explored more opportunities, made more friends, or even spoke to my professors more often. But I guess that’s the beauty of hindsight. And that’s why I’m so excited to start my master’s. I’m going to do all of those things this time around.”

With an openness to learn and a competitive drive, it seems like Laurel is on track for success.