For many who took up running during the pandemic-related popularity boost, breaking out of isolation to put in a few miles with friends was the connection they needed then—and continue to seek now.
Enter, run groups. Clubs, crews, and virtual groups are pretty much everywhere, making it easier than ever before to find a group of people to run with. On Strava alone, total club members grew by 37% in 2021, and more than 189,000 clubs were created on the platform last year.
So what draws people to running groups? There are a bunch of reasons, including a sense of belonging, community, commiseration, accountability, friendship, coaching, and more. And research only reinforces what many already have figured out for themselves: Running in a group can improve your performance, and can be good for your mental health, too. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine found that regular participation in group exercise significantly reduced feelings of stress.
The Road Runners Club of America has a database of about 1,500 member organizations, and an untold number of other clubs and crews exist in towns, cities, and virtually on social media platforms, too. And there’s a club for nearly every purpose. For instance, maybe you’re looking for a beginner’s club that offers coaching and training plans, for example, or one that uses running as a platform for social justice or to advocate for certain causes. Maybe you want a more advanced group that runs faster paces at track workouts. Or maybe you’re just looking for a fun run club that puts a greater emphasis on their post-run burger or brunch outings than they do on their miles.
And if you don’t find a group that fits your needs exactly, well, you can always create your own one that does. That’s what Verna Volker did in 2018, as she tells SELF. She couldn’t find a community that included other Native women, and she felt that their stories weren’t breaking through to the bigger running world. So she founded Native Women Running on Instagram, which now has 28,500 followers and has members meeting up at races like the Boston Marathon (“Everybody’s invited,” Volker says, adding that the group welcomes anybody who is interested to follow or join its events).
“It’s become something that came from a little, small Instagram account to an organization I’m learning to lead,” Volker says. “I often hear people say that it’s a movement that we’ve created.”
Whether you want to join a local, in-person club or make an online connection with a group of like-minded new friends, running is no doubt made better by participating in the community. Read on for a sampling of 11 running organizations helping members enjoy their training and make the most of their experience.
The mission of Native Women Running is to “build and nurture a community that features and encourages Native women runners on and off the reservation.” Volker started the group on Instagram, where she showcases the stories of Native women around the world. Now she’s facilitating activities beyond the grid. Members are running races like the Boston Marathon under the banner of Native Women Running, and the organization also has created a virtual event that raises awareness and funds for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women.