Group fitness can be a huge motivating factor in getting your workout done. It's also extremely important to feel included and supported in your exercise environment. If you're a runner — or want to start logging some miles — a running club is a great place to level up your training and make some new friends.
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There are many reasons for runners to join a group (like the ones listed here), but if you find yourself asking, "How do I find running clubs near me that are the right fit?" you're not alone.
Finding a running group that fits your needs can be challenging. Does it cater to all paces? Do the meet-up times work with your schedule? Can you wear headphones? Run with a stroller? These are all questions to take into consideration when beginning your search.
Organizations like Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) and New York Road Runners (NYRR) are a great start because they list local running groups on their websites. But with hundreds of options to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming to sift through.
Because we want to help you find a community to run with — and make the process as easy as possible — we chatted with coaches and run club leaders to get their tips.
1. Visit Your Local Running Store
Many running shops are staffed by athletes who participate in local run clubs, or the running shop itself may host a run club or have a directory of options in the area.
Plus, many running groups will convene at stores for the start of their runs as a meeting point or use the shops as a bag drop-off place, according to Janet Hamilton, coach and founder of Running Strong in Atlanta.
"Find out if any running stores have social groups that get together on a regular basis. That's always a good networking opportunity," she tells LIVESTRONG.com.
2. Browse Online Forums
Not all running groups are created equally. If you're looking to trot around your city with people similar to you, sometimes leveraging non-traditional forms of communication can provide serious results.
Adam Devine, coach of New York City-based Prospect Park Track Club, recommends Reddit as a good place to start.
"There are multiple threads out there where you can just pop in and be like, 'Hey, I'm looking for a running club. Does anybody have any suggestions?' Because it's somewhat anonymous, you'll get some honest feedback," Devine tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Devine suggests searching threads on Reddit like "running," "advanced running" or "run [insert your city here]."
3. Think About What's Important to You
It might sound obvious, but considering what you want from a running club is potentially one of the biggest factors.
There are clubs for many different interests and identities, such as Running to Protest, Chinatown Runners and Front Runners, an international organization for LGBTQ+ runners that has over 50 local clubs located throughout the U.S.
"There's a Ukrainian running club, there's Polska running club, Harlem Run is a huge club — whatever you're looking for, you can find it," Gilbert Ganoa, president of Front Runners' New York City club, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Many clubs also distinguish themselves as social or competitive clubs. However, these designations are not black and white. Many of the competitive clubs love to get drinks after their run and many of the social clubs have runners lined up at the front of the races. Seek out the opinions of those online and in person to get a sense of the specifics of the clubs you're interested in joining.
Additional things to consider when deciding on a group may be logistical factors, such as how often and what time the runners meet up.
4. Speak With the Club's Coaches and/or Captains
Ultimately, the success or failure of many organizations comes down to those at the top. Believing in your training and what's being prescribed to you is a vital aspect for runners of all stripes.
Asking questions about a coach's credentials, experience and reasoning behind workout plans is something every runner should do, Hamilton says. Even if you're not looking for a rigidly structured running environment, having a purpose or answer to why you're training in a certain way can be extremely helpful and important — especially if you're paying regular dues or fees.
Many running clubs have their coaches and captains listed directly on their website with their accompanying emails, where you can inquire about their style of coaching (a one-size-fits-all approach versus individualized training plans, for instance), the different paces they cater to and any other important policies or pieces of info they may be able to speak on that regular club members can't.
Social media platforms can provide a meaningful insight into organizations of many kinds — including run clubs.
If your local run club is on social media — and, let's be honest, they most likely are — their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts can all shed light on the group's dynamics. Take a look at photos and posts to see if the group looks like one you'd be interested in joining.
You can even browse individual members' profiles, as getting a look into the composition of a group can be helpful, too.
6. Go on a Run With Them
Not dissimilar to touring colleges, sometimes the most effective way to get to know a group can be by going to see them in person. In fact, many clubs regularly have non-members attend their runs so they can get a feel for the size, running level and overall makeup of the club.
But don't worry if you drop into a group run and don't think it's ultimately the right fit for you.
"It's almost like dating. You agree to go on a date, but just because you agreed to go on a date doesn't mean that you're in a long-term relationship," Devine says. In other words, keep searching until you find exactly what you're looking for.
7. Trust Your Gut
Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, there's been even more of an increase in online coaches, virtual groups and unique ways to find a community while staying safe.
All this is to say, if you aren't feeling completely at home in an athletic group, find something that's more your vibe. Especially if you're in big cities like Los Angeles, New York or Chicago, there's more than likely someone running at your pace and wanting the same things from their outside-of-work escape.