Running Changes Everything: How Running Builds Community

Adina Crawford stretches before a run.

For Adina Crawford, running is about fitness, fun and the freedom to move.

But ultimately it’s about the friendships and the community it builds.

“It’s all about the people you meet, the friendships you develop,” says Crawford, who began her running journey when she walked into a Fleet Feet store 13 years ago in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “We’re all different people, but running bridges a lot of those gaps. You run with people, you spend time with people, you talk to people, and you meet people outside of your circle. That’s how running builds community. ”

Crawford knows first-hand that the running community allows individuals to share the physical joys and challenges of running, regardless of their experience or ability, while also connecting as humans who are defined by so many other elements in their lives. As a woman of color who started running in her 40s, she’s found the running community to be welcoming, engaging and inspiring.

A Welcoming First Experience

Adina practices yoga on a path.

From the moment she was greeted by store owner Robyn Gault, Crawford realized that running fosters a special sense of community. It was Gault who helped Crawford find her first pair of running shoes and invited her to join the Fleet Feet beginner running program. Thanks to the warmth and connection of Fleet Feet group coach Jennifer Gill and the runners in the program, she completed the 5K training program that concluded with a group celebration with her training mates and life-changing feelings that have never subsided.

From there, Crawford continued with a Fleet Feet half marathon program and became an ambassador for the store, inviting other new runners into the mix while helping spread that connecting spirit. She has encouraged other runners to reach their goals, participated in countless Fleet Feet group runs and brought her Black Girls Run! team members to special shopping nights at the store. Along the way, she discovered new shoe models that helped improve her performance and a wide range of new brands that were not only functional and fashionable but also size-inclusive.

Finding Her Community

Adina teaches a yoga class.

Crawford has become a certified run coach, a two-time marathon finisher and a yogi and cyclist. But the community she engaged in from the start is still a vibrant part of her life. Recently, a woman she met in the Fleet Feet program happened to be at her workplace for a meeting and, even though it’s been a few years since they ran together, they instantly caught up, shared stories and had a few laughs.

“When you think about it, the running community is so small,” Crawford says. “And what I mean is that everybody knows someone you know and because of that we’re all connected. I’m always bumping into friends and acquaintances I met through running. Almost everytime I go to a race, I see someone I know who was there when I started running at Fleet Feet. It’s amazing how so much of my journey started from those first experiences at Fleet Feet when I walked in and didn’t know anyone or anything about running.”

The engaging connections Crawford immersed herself in through her local Fleet Feet store can be found at every other Fleet Feet store around the country. The staff at each store goes out of their way to welcome anyone who walks in the door. They’ll help you get started as a runner, fit you into your next pair of shoes, suggest places to run and share information about local races. They’ll ask you about your running and fitness goals, but mostly they’ll engage with you like a member of the local community.

“Those Fleet Feet programs are so welcoming,” Crawford says. “I’m still really good friends with four or five of the runners because we’ve maintained that human connection we made as runners and now we keep supporting one another through our own endeavors. That’s what it’s all about.” You can engage in the running community at a local Fleet Feet store, too! Whether you’re interested in training programs, group runs or a personalized shoe-fitting experience, you’ll find it at your local Fleet Feet.

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