How to Find a Running Group

Multi-ethnic joggers running
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If you always run by yourself, you're missing out on the many benefits of group training. Running with a group not only helps to expand your social circle, but it also boosts motivation and can improve your athletic performance.

Not sure how to find people to run with? There are different ways to find a group and different types of groups to join. You'll want to consider a few different options before choosing the best group for you.

How to Find a Running Group

Each running organization has a different style. Many times, the groups are centered around a specific goal: some are social groups, some are performance-driven, some are united around a common cause, such as a charity or training for an upcoming race.

There are many different types of running groups, with different goals, different pace groups, different guidelines, different fees, and different schedules. It is important to do some homework to find the best group for you before making a commitment.

The best group for you depends on your running goals, but also on other lifestyle factors. Consider each of these factors as you search for a group.

Schedule

Many running groups meet 2–3 times per week in the evening after work. The post-work training schedule is convenient for many people who can't break away from the office during the day and who have family obligations in the morning.

However, if you have other responsibilities in the evening or if you prefer an early bedtime, evening workouts can be a struggle. You have to time your meals carefully in the late afternoon to make sure that you are properly fueled (but not overly stuffed) when the workout begins. And sometimes late workouts can interfere with sleep.

Some run clubs offer morning workouts for early risers who like to exercise before work. And others offer late morning or lunchtime workouts for those who have availability during the day.

Cost

Always inquire about cost before joining a run club because it can vary substantially. Some run clubs—such as those affiliated with a local running store or community center—might offer a running group for free. There is usually no commitment required and you simply show up on the days when you are interested in participating.

However, some programs include professional coaching services. These run clubs are likely to charge a fee. You may have to commit to a specific training session (such as an eight-week, ten-week, or 12-week session) and pay up front. While you are not required to show up for every workout, you generally don't get money back if you don't attend every session.

Charity-based running clubs may require you to raise funds for a specific cause and other run clubs may ask for donations to cover basic fees such as water during workouts and administrative costs.

Pace

Most running clubs—especially those that are very big—have runners of all abilities. So if you are a 10-minute/mile runner or a 6-minute/mile runner you will find others running at your pace to challenge you and keep you company during workouts.

However, smaller run clubs may not have a wide range of abilities. For example, a lunch-time running group that meets at your local health club may only have a few participants that run at a similar pace. Or sometimes, late morning running clubs include moms who run with strollers and, as a result, may run at a slightly slower pace.

The best way to find out is simply to ask. If you are not sure of your own standard pace, do a few runs on your own and use a watch to time yourself. When in doubt, underestimate your time. Running with a group that is too slow is generally more comfortable than trying to keep up with a group that is running too fast.

Distance

Sometimes, running groups have a common goal of training for a marathon, ultramarathon, or half-marathon. As a result, their workouts may include long-distance runs. While they may take weeks or months to work up to the longer distance sessions, if you join mid-session, they may already be running 12, 14, 16 or more miles.

Again, ask about typical distances before you join. It is not uncommon for some workouts to be short (speed intervals, hill training) and some workouts to be longer. Social running groups may run the same course every time they meet. Group organizers should be able to give you an easy answer so that you can feel comfortable about running with their team.

Location

Many running groups meet at the same location every time they work out together. But other groups make it a point to explore different routes. Especially if you are paying to belong to a running group, you'll want to be sure that the meeting locations are convenient for you.

Also, inquire about the terrain, as it might affect the type of running the group engages in. Trail running groups will explore rocky, hilly, off-road routes. While road runners will stay on the pavement most of the time. Track runners may require cleats if they do all of their running at the local track.

Rules and Logistics

For the purposes of safety and comfort, some running groups have rules (written or unwritten) that you are expected to follow. Ask about these guidelines in advance.

For example, if you prefer to run with headphones, it is not uncommon for groups to discourage this habit. Not only does it limit social interaction, but if you can't hear instructions from the coach, traffic noises, or cues from other runners you may be putting others' safety at risk.

Other common rules include limitations on bringing guests along or running with a pet or a stroller.

You might also want to ask about logistics including storage and bathroom access. Some groups meet at a location that provides bathroom and lockers, while others don't have access to these services.

Multisport Options

Some running groups offer the option of training for a duathlon or triathlon. It's important to know if some of the group workouts are designed for these multisport athletes.

If you are not training for one of these events, it will limit the sessions you can participate in. But if you are a multisport athlete, you'll benefit from riding with friends or finding out about swimming teams or masters groups in your area.

Social Factors

It is not uncommon for running groups to have a "personality," especially if the group has been around for a while. Some groups are more competitive and run with the goal of competing in races. While others run solely for the love of being outside with others who like to exercise.

Most groups allow a trial period where you can join for a few sessions to see how you feel. It's smart to take advantage of this opportunity, even if the other factors line up.

When you hit the pavement with the new crew, talk to as many of the runners as you can to see how you enjoy their company. If you choose to join the group, you'll be spending many hours with these people, so it's smart to do some compatibility homework in advance.

Where to Find Running Groups

There are countless ways to find running groups in your area. If you belong to a health club, inquire with staff to see if there is an official or unofficial group to train with.

You can also ask around at your local community center, church, school, or even in the neighborhood park (many parks have boards where you might find information posted). There may also be a running club at your place of work. Ask around in the office or post an inquiry on a community board or in a common space such as a lunchroom.

Another common way to find a running group is to search the internet. Here are some organizations to check out.

Road Runners Club of America

RRCA is a national organization of local running clubs. Go to their website to find a running club in your area. Most local running clubs offer group training runs during the week and/or on weekends.

Charity Group Training Programs

If you'd like to be part of a running group and also give back to a good cause, look for a charity group training program. Many not-for-profit organizations offer group training and cover race expenses in exchange for your fundraising efforts.

The biggest programs with many locations across the country include the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America's Team Challenge, and the American Cancer Society's DetermiNation.

Running Specialty Stores

Many local running specialty stores offer group training runs, usually for free, that start and finish at the store. If your local running store doesn't already host runs, ask them if they'd be interested in serving as a meeting place for runners to start and finish their runs. Chances are they'll have a hard time saying no to that kind of free marketing and exposure. They may even offer to lead a run and workout.

Stroller Strides

This group is a stroller-based fitness program that helps moms of little ones get and stay fit by walking, running, and working out with their babies and toddlers. Stroller Strides is active in 2,000 communities across the U.S., so check out their website for a location near you.

Fitness Dating Sites

If you're looking for a running partner and also a possible romantic connection, register with a dating website for single people who love to run, such as RunningSingles.com or FitnessSingles.com. You can browse through profiles of runners in your area and select who you want to meet.

Local Races

Sign up for a local road race. Many races offer free group training runs to registered participants. If you're training for a specific race, check the race website to see if they have any organized training runs scheduled. Training with others for a race will help you stay motivated and also make the race more fun since you'll know other racers.

Donating your time at a road race is another great way to meet people in your local running community. While you're sitting at the registration table or handing out water cups, you're likely to meet other runners who may also be looking for running buddies.

Meetup

Another internet-based opportunity is Meetup, an online platform for finding and meeting new people. The site offers a running-specific page to help you find others in your area who want to work out. According to the site, you can plan group runs, participate in various long and short distance running, discuss safety and more.

Girls on the Run

This is a transformational learning and fitness program for 8- to 13-year-old girls. Girls on the Run offers an after-school program, where participants learn life skills through dynamic, conversation-based lessons, and running. After training for 10 weeks, the girls participate in a 5K race.

Marathon Kids

Marathon Kids is an organization that, with its partner Nike, introduces kids to running in a fun, positive way that will set them on the path for a healthy, physically active lifestyle. Check out their website to search for a Marathon Kids club near you or for information on how to start your own Marathon Kids club at a camp, school, or at home.

Start Your Own Running Program

If you can’t find an existing running program in your community, why not start your own? Here are some tips to get started.

  • If you'd like to be part of a larger, already established program, don't let the lack of a local chapter stop you. Many of the above programs offer franchise or partner opportunities, plus lots of support and guidance to help you get a program off the ground. Check out their websites for more info.
  • To start your own running group, grab a couple of friends or co-workers who are also interested in running regularly. Pick a set day/time each week to meet. Once you've established a consistent meeting time and place and have a few group runs under your belt, reach out to other friends and neighbors, either in person or through social media, and encourage them to join you.
  • Pick a race that you'd like to train for with your group (a 5K is a good choice because they're very beginner-friendly), so you all have a common goal. Distribute a training schedule to your group and plan to run together for at least one weekly run.
  • If you're interested in starting a running club at your kids' school, talk to the principal and physical education teachers to get feedback and advice on getting started. Or, check with your city or town's recreation department or local youth sports organization.

    A Word From Verywell

    If you do some homework and find a running group that suits you, you'll quickly learn why running with others adds value to the sport. Miles go by faster and your pace is likely to improve as you challenge yourself with a variety of new workouts.

    But remember that running alone has benefits as well. If you are an exerciser who enjoys the peace and solitude of a private run, combine group workouts with solo workouts to enjoy the best of both worlds.

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