How to Know If a Run Club Could Be Right for You
Run clubs can help you find motivation and community, but they're not for everyone. Here's what to consider before joining one.
By Kells McPhillips•
Anyone who’s signed up for a race—be it a 5K, 10K, or ultramarathon—knows that there’s nothing quite like running with other people. If you just can’t get enough of that race day magic, finding a running club near you may help you make friends, stay consistent, and get a little more out of your weekly mileage.
Before you show up for your first run club, there are important questions you need to answer, like, why am I joining a run club? What are the different types of teams I could join? What criteria should I look for in a group? It’s also important to remember that even if you can’t find an in-person club that meets in your area, there are digital clubs you can join.
Of course, running clubs aren’t for everyone. Many people love to cover the distance with their favorite podcasts or music. So, if you’re more of a solo jogger than a pack runner, don’t feel like you need to find a whole crew to make the most out of your runs.
If you are curious about what it feels like to have a consistent crew you can meet up with for short and long distances, keep scrolling to learn all about run clubs.
What Is a Running Club?
A run club is a group of people who gather at a specified location to run together. While many run clubs are free to join, others charge a yearly or monthly membership fee.
Depending on the club, the workout may include a track workout, a road run, a trail run, or cross country, and the distances vary greatly. Some days, the group may plan a quick loop around your neighborhood park; others, a long run may be on the schedule. (That said, it’s important to remember that you never have to run an entire run with the club. Depending on where you are in your running journey, you may be joining in for half of a mile or a 20-mile long run.)
Running clubs typically meet at least once a week, with some meeting several times during the workweek and on the weekend. Many clubs even offer specific training factions for those with races on the calendar. For example, if you’re running a half marathon, you may be able to log one or more runs with a group each week.
Some groups also offer strength training, yoga, or other cross-training activities to round out their members’ running routines and help stave off injuries.
Why Do People Join Running Clubs?
People join running clubs to form a community, stay accountable, make friends, and increase their fitness. Here are a few reasons someone may sign up for a run club.
1. (Most) Run Clubs Are Beginner-Friendly
Those who are new to running will find themselves in good company at their local run club. Many clubs offer a few different pace groups to make sure every member has the opportunity to run with someone.
As a beginner, running clubs can also help you stay consistent with your training. Running can be difficult at first, so having a crew to depend on for two or three training sessions per week can be a game-changer.
2. Run Clubs Offer Similar Benefits of Group Fitness in General
3. They May Help You Become Faster or Increase Your Endurance
Runners may also opt to log their miles with others to get faster or run longer distances. For instance, someone who dreads their weekly speed workout may find that it’s more enjoyable when they have a little bit of company in the 800-meter repeat pain cave.
Plus, running with others allows you to encourage the person next to you and take the focus off yourself. That way, when you all cross the finish line, you have more than one win to celebrate.
4. Run Clubs Can Help You Make Friends
Many folks also seek out group fitness to make friends. If you’re new to a city, jumping into a group run can help you meet people quickly and form a crew that you may just meet up with for years to come. It’s a long-standing tradition to grab donuts, coffee, or even a beer after running club, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get to know your fellow athletes on a personal level.
5. They Offer Networking Opportunities in Your Community
Running groups also give you the chance to make professional connections that may lead to a professional opportunity in the future. Research shows that about 70 percent of Americans got their current jobs through networking, so never underestimate the power of talking someone up on the bleachers of your local track.
6. Running Clubs May Help You Stay Accountable to Your Workouts
If you struggle to make it to the starting line (and, let’s face it, we all do sometimes), having a whole group of people expecting you may be just the encouragement you need to lace up. Over time, you’ll start to look forward to those early wake-up calls and post-workout lattes. But first, just remember that people are counting on you to show up.
7. Run Clubs Offer the Chance to Chat Nutrition, Sleep, and Cross-Training With Other Runners
Talking to other runners can be a blast. Whether you’re trading incredible post-run muffin recipes or geeking out on nailing your nutrition during long races, hanging out with other runners can help you learn the ins and outs of this incredible sport.
8. Running with Others Can Help You Stay Safe
As the old wisdom goes, “There’s safety in numbers.” Many of us have a short window for our runs: We can either squeeze them in first thing in the morning or late at night. So runners, particularly women and nonbinary runners, may feel safer logging their miles in a group.
How Can I Join a Running Club?
Luckily, these groups are easy to find. Simply Google “running clubs in [your town]” and check out your options. Also, keep your eye out for programming at local running stores, Facebook groups, and Meetups. As you research, make sure to consider factors like price, group size, and location, and don’t be afraid to try out a few options before settling on one or more clubs.
Alys Tomlinson/Stone via Getty Images
How to Choose a Run Club
1. Consider How “Serious” You Want the Runs to Be
“Some clubs have different priorities. Some running clubs will be very focused on races and getting points in those races, and they’re in a league. So they might be quite focused on speed sessions, track sessions, that sort of thing,” says Peloton instructor Susie Chan. Others, meanwhile, will emphasize community and fun over difficult training. So decide what approach makes sense to you—and go for it.
“Ask yourself what you want from this run club. Do you want to get some serious training in, or do you want to just meet some like-minded people?” says Susie.
2. Try a trial session before you commit
Running clubs are a commitment. Before you lock yourself into one group, make sure you actually like the vibe. “Most [clubs] let you come along for a trial session before you become a fully paid member,” says Susie. “Have a look and see what sort of things they get up to.”
Culture is a really important factor to consider from warm-up to cool down with a new club. How do people treat one another? Is there a competitive spirit in the club? Did you feel awkward or excluded? Gather all your data to mull over on your jog home.
3. Ask a Friend if They're Willing to Come Along
If you feel nervous about the prospect of running with strangers, ask a friend to come with you. They’ll be able to discuss the pros and cons of each group with you afterward. And, hey, maybe they’ll even want to sign up themselves.
4. Make sure the logistics make sense
Consider all the details so that nothing stands in the way of you and your run. For example, does this run club conflict with any existing obligations? How long of a drive is the meetup point? What time will you need to leave to make it on time?
For example, a running club that’s an hour away from you with traffic may not be the best idea…even if the squad is incredible.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Go Back to Running on Your Own
Let’s say you give all the running clubs in your town a try and find that… they just aren’t your thing. Perhaps you miss the hours of quiet alone time on the trails or getting to catch up on your audiobooks. Whatever the reason, don’t feel obligated to hold onto a club that isn’t serving you. Reassemble your party of one—and get out there for some solo miles.
How to Join a Virtual Run Club
If you live in a remote area, have a busy schedule, or prefer to log your runs alone, a virtual run club may be more your speed. “Virtual communities are brilliant because they do all of the things that in-person clubs do: you just don't have to travel to see each other,” says Susie. “The convenience is a huge perk."
While Peloton doesn’t offer formal “clubs,” the classes can often scratch the itch of feeling like you’re in a community, adds Susie. You’re going your own pace in the comfort of your own home, but you can also feel the energy of people around the globe who are running right along with you.
“There is a community out there for everybody, and once you’ve found people who have the same ability, vibe, or goals as you, then it's really enabling space,” says Susie. “You can be like, ‘Let's meet virtually at 10 a.m., Saturday, let's go and run for 45 minutes together.”
How to Start Your Own Run Club
There’s always the option of starting your own run club in your town. Start with a small group of your close friends that slowly grows over time, or post on social media to ask your local runners to join your crew.
Since you’re making the rules, feel free to create the group you want. For example, you could start an all-women’s running club, an ultramarathoners group, or a run-walk crew.
While the club remains small, you may not need an official name, rules, or membership fees. However, as your group starts to grow, you may consider taking any and all of the following steps to help your team grow and serve all your members.
Name your club.
Start charging membership fees.
Establish your budget for t-shirts, post-run meals, etc.
Broker deals with local businesses and races so that your runners get discounts.
Ask your team members what they want from your club—and make changes accordingly.
Set up a social media account for your club, and post consistently to attract new members.
Create a mission statement for your group.
Establish who will be the leader(s) and what their responsibilities will be
Establish “rules” or bylaws for your club.
Incorporate the club, if necessary.