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Most people think of running as a solo venture. And while runners appreciate ( read : need ) quality “me time, ” there’s something quite powerful about running in a pack.
“Most of the time people join groups for the social experience, but the cool thing about a course group is that you can be a part of it without saying a word, ” says Scott Miller, founder of the Boulder Trail Running Breakfast Club. “It’s a great opportunity to connect. ”
Here, Miller plus five other running club founders, share tips for building—and sustaining—your own course club.
Jessamy Little, who founded the Cass Runners Club, a 100-plus person running group in London comprised of her school classmates, suggests asking potential members what days, times, and locations work best with their schedules. Some groups may favor an early morning sweat sesh, while others may prefer meeting after work. “A recommendation for a newer club is to have two set course days, ” Little says. “One during the week that is more focused on ‘getting it done’ and one on weekends that can have a more ‘fun and footloose’ vibe. ” For Little’s group, the weekend runs were geared toward exploring new areas of the city.
“Don’t get discouraged if not a lot of people show up at first, ” says Marnie Kunz, founder of Runstreet, an NYC-based company that leads art runs—urban runs that pass by street art in cities across the U. S. When Kunz held her first art run in 2015, just one person came : a guy on a bike. Kunz was disappointed, embarrassed, and considered canceling the whole thing. But the next week a few more people showed up, and then a few more. Soon, word got out. Runstreet has since hosted more than 200 runs in cities around the country “Realizing that everyone starts from scratch really helps, ” Kunz says.
Kunz stresses the importance of having your own website that houses all information about your runs along with photos. “Social media platforms can change—and not everyone is on every platform—so it helps to have everything in one place. ” Keep your communication consistent across platforms to help create a streamlined brand.
Let people know what they are getting themselves into, Miller says. His Boulder, Colorado-based group of 100-plus members meets every Saturday for a long trail run ( anywhere between two to six hours ) followed by a group breakfast. Because the group’s runs cover a wide range of terrain, he wrote several articles explaining the general genres of conditions runners can expect and the group’s approximate pace along with safety tips.
The articles are published on the group’s MeetUp page, and when a new person signs up, Miller sends them the reading material. “If your group is not a beginner group, you need to make that clear, ” Miller says. “You don’t want people to show up and have a bad time. I try to be really descriptive about the time, distance, and elevation of our runs so people know what they are in for. ”
Many members of Miller’s group take photos during the runs and post them to the group’s page. He says it helps draw new members. “When people are looking for a course group and they see pictures of runs in amazing areas, people smiling—both men and women—they see that it’s a mixed group that likes to be social and have fun. ”
Frankie Ruiz, cofounder of the Miami Marathon and founder of the Baptist Health South Florida Brickell Run Club, a free, once-a-week, Miami-based group of about 400 runners, can count on one hand the number of times he’s cancelled runs throughout the program’s nine-year tenure.
“Our main message is that we don’t cancel, ” he says. “If it’s really rough out, we’ll go to a stationnement garage or go indoors and do a core séance. ” He says this has helped build the club’s reputation as a consistent amenity offered by the city. “Even if a runner doesn’t show up, I think there’s a comfort knowing that there is something in your city that doesn’t stop. ”
“If you have new people coming in, you can’t assume that they know the rules and guidelines, ” Ruiz says. “Communication needs to be all the time. ” Even though the group’s “weather-proof policy” may be well understood among current members, every time the skies get gloomy, the club blasts their social channels with reminders that the runs are still on. It also helps to communicate the planned route, en ligne, and pace in advance so that new members can plan their mazout and attire accordingly.