How to Find Your Running Community

2019 Holiday Lifestyle 3574

For many runners, one of the greatest joys of the sport is belonging to a running community. Running friends give us motivation and encouragement. They empower us to get out of bed when we don’t feel like running. They understand the ups and downs of the sport, and they don’t judge us for our snot rockets.

So if you’re new to running or moving to a new town, how do you find your people?

First, consider: What kind of runner are you? What kind of support do you need?

Group of people running across an intersection

  • The Newbie: Are you just getting started or coming back after a long break? Awesome! Look for a non-competitive group that offers guided training sessions. As a beginner, be sure to make your running goals approachable so you don’t burn out or get discouraged. Having a mentor and a team helps.
  • The Competitor: Seeking serious training? Look for a group that will push you harder than you can push yourself alone. Consider a group that meets for regular speed workouts. You may benefit from joining a race team and seeking a coach who can help you reach your goals.
  • The Trail Runner: Want to get away from city noise and pounding the pavement? Look for a local trail crew. Trail groups can help you navigate the woods, find the best overlooks and show you hidden spots you didn’t know existed.
  • The Social Runner: Want something laid back and just for fun? Look for local pub runs or volunteer groups. Many towns have groups that meet for sunrise runs that end with breakfast. Some groups even keep things interesting with scavenger hunt runs.
  • The Ultra Runner: Looking to increase your distance? The miles go by faster with friends and conversation. As the ultrarunning scene continues to grow, more groups are popping up that put in long hours and miles together.

Everyone is different, and you will likely fit into multiple running groups. Some won’t be the right fit, and that’s OK. Maybe you just want to have fun, and the racing team is way too serious. No worries—try a few groups to find one that’s right for you.

Once you know what you're looking for, seek out people and training plans to support your needs.

Where to Find Your Running Tribe

Runners are all around. In neighborhoods and parks, on city streets and local tracks. If you're looking for other runners, you're sure to find at least one group that aligns with your goals.

Fleet Feet stores across the country have running clubs for every level, surface and distance you may want to explore. Your local running store is a natural gathering place for the running community; most employees will know about running groups and events in your area.

While you’re talking with an employee about how running shoes should fit, ask about what’s happening on the local scene and how to get connected. Ask:

  • What social runs can you tap into?
  • What are the favorite races in town?
  • How can you get connected as a volunteer?
  • Is there a local relay running team that needs another member?

Whether you're looking for pals for a weekly run or traveling to a new city for the weekend, social media is another great way to find your tribe.

  • Strava, the online fitness community, is more than just a way to keep track of your own runs. Check out local groups, find common routes and check your Flybys to see who you pass on your runs. Give kudos on their run, and maybe start together next time.
  • Sign up for a Virtual Running Challenge! These are great ways to get motivated and bring in some friendly competition.
  • Facebook is often the first stop to look for local groups and events.
  • Meetup is another popular site used for social groups all over the country, including runners. This is often a good way to find grassroots groups not associated with a particular store, team or organization.

You can also check out the local race scene. Whether you’re racing or volunteering, races are a great way to find your community. If you want training partners, look for folks who run at a pace similar to yours. If you’d like to join a race team, look for groups of people in matching singlets. Talk to the race organizers and volunteers. Cheer on the runners. Find ways to be helpful, make friends and get connected.

Finally, explore organizations that need volunteers. Races are an easy place to start, but there are plenty of other options. For example, check out a local animal shelter. Many shelters have volunteer groups that run or walk with dogs that need exercise. If mentoring is more your style, you could sign up to be a coach or running buddy at a local chapter of Girls on the Run, or Junior Olympics. Volunteering is a great way to build relationships and community.

By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for over 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.

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