Running clubs have grown in popularity over the last few years as more people look for ways to get active.
Empowering women and tackling homelessness to creating spaces for underrepresented groups, the running clubs in this guide are giving back and doing more good in the world.
Through their mission and ethos, they are changing the world one step at a time!
I personally have been part of running clubs in the past and I’ve found them to be such a rewarding experience.
I have also led various running groups in my local area, working with women to get them running in the outdoors.
There’s nothing better than being surrounded by a group of like-minded people who all come together for their mutual love of running.
Not to mention the benefits a running club has for your running performance.
I find that running with others is a great way to push yourself out of your running comfort zone and achieve things that you didn’t think were possible on your own.
So if you’re looking to join a running club, in this guide we’ll provide some tips and advice.
We’ll look at:
- What is a running club?
- What are the different types of running club?
- Why join a running club?
- How to join a running club
- What to look for in a running club?
- Running clubs near me: How to find a running club locally
- 10 running clubs changing the world one step at a time
What is a running club?
A running club is a community made up of people who are interested in and participate in running.
Oftentimes people come together for their mutual love of running.
Running is a great sport to bring people together – no matter your age, gender, ability level or size.
Whereas some people join a club to improve their running performance, others join purely for the social connection.
Whatever your reasons for joining, they key is to find a club that suits your needs!
There’s nothing worse than joining a club and feeling like you don’t belong.
No one wants to be the runner at the back of the pack while the other runners race off ahead.
This is why is so important to find a club that suits your interests, goals and ability level.
To this effect, there are different types of clubs that cater for different types of runners which I’ll explain more about in the next section.
What are the different types of running club?
There are different types of running club that in turn attract different types of runners.
Finding the right club for you will depend on your interests, goals, running experience and fitness levels.
Even your schedule will determine if the club is right for you – which I explain more about later.
In our research we identified five different types of running clubs:
- Traditional running clubs
- Local running clubs and groups
- Run crews
- Social enterprise running clubs and groups
- Online running clubs
Traditional running clubs
Traditional running clubs are normally affiliated with an athletics organisation.
As such, the majority of them tend to offer paid-for membership options.
They work with athletes from an amateur level and elite level, with their athletes regularly participating in local and national running events.
Traditional running clubs can be quite intimidating if you’re a novice runner, but don’t let this put you off!
Most are welcoming to new and beginner runners.
Some even offer programmes like Couch to 5k for newbie runners looking to start their running journey.
This type of club is great for you if you’re looking to learn how to become a better runner and get advice and support from a team of coaches and fellow athletes.
Local running clubs
Running groups are typically more informal, often led by a Run Leader or Run Coach from the local community.
This type of club is great for you don’t quite fancy joining an athletics club and want a more informal, less intimidating setting in which to run in.
Run crews are normally affiliated with brands, stores, cafes and bars.
Brands like Sweaty Betty and Lululemon, for example, offer run crews in some of their stores.
Some cafes and bars also have run crews as a way to build connections in the local community.
Typically these types of clubs are free and encourage members to join for the social side of running, offering meet ups and get togethers in the process.
So if you’re down for the social side of running and want to meet like-minded people, this type of club could be perfect for you.
Social enterprise running clubs
Lots of ‘run for good’ clubs have popped up over the last few years as people look for more ways to give back to their community.
From litter picking to run services for the elderly, these types of clubs are a great choice if you want to do good while you run.
Here are some examples:
- GoodGym – run, walk or cycle to help community organisations and isolated older people.
- Run For Good – although technically not a running club, Run For Good offers a platform that turns your runs into contributions for charities.
- Plogging.org – a global movements that involves you picking up litter when you walk, jog or run.
Online running clubs
Online running groups have exploded in popularity over the last five years as more runners seek a community of runners online.
We know virtual running rubs aren’t for everyone.
Clubs like the online Lonely Goat running club, for example, are great examples of online running communities.
These types of clubs are typically free to join, and once you join, you’ll be able to engage with club members via social media and Strava.
So if you can’t commit to a face to face running club, your virtual tribe is waiting for you!
Why join a running club?
There are lots of reasons to join a running club.
Not only do they make you accountable for your runs, they provide you with much needed motivation.
A run with your club buddies will undoubtedly give your training a boost!
Here are the benefits of joining a running club:
- You’ll get advice and support from qualified run leaders and/or coaches.
- You’ll give your training a boost.
- You’ll get accountability and motivation for your runs.
- You’ll learn more about aspects of running (e.g. running form, running drills).
- You’ll be more likely to push yourself harder.
- You’ll get to experiment with different types of running (e.g. interval training, strides).
- You’ll get to meet like-minded people.
- You’ll get outdoors more.
How to join a running club
Some running clubs require you to join as a member, but there are also plenty of free running clubs that you can join as we highlighted above.
Be sure to check with the club to understand their membership options before joining.
Related: What to expect at your first Parkrun
What to look for in a running club?
Depending on your goals, you’ll want to make to make sure the running club is a good fit for you.
It’s recommended you do some research before joining a club.
Many clubs offer trial sessions for anyone wishing to join, so take advantage of these when you can.
Some clubs require you to be a member so trial sessions are a great opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ before you commit to joining.
Here are some things to research before joining:
Are the club sessions led by a qualified run leader and/or run coach?
If you’re looking for that extra bit of support, then look for sessions led by qualified coaches.
When does the club meet to train?
Are these times realistic for you? Are you able to commit to these training sessions each week?
What types of training sessions does the club offer?
If you’re looking to work on your speed, then you may want to find a running club that offers interval training sessions.
If you’re just looking for company on an easy run, then find a club that offers this style of training.
What types of runners does the club work with?
Many clubs aim their sessions at different types of runners.
Some offer beginner sessions, whereas others offer more advanced sessions where you are expected to run at a certain pace.
Make sure the club you choose is suited to your pace.
Don’t be afraid to contact the club directly via email if you have any questions.
Related: Couch to 5k plan: A complete guide
Running clubs near me: How to find a running club locally
You may be wondering: “How do I find running clubs near me?”
One of the best ways is to ask for recommendations from family, friends and local runners.
Many running clubs spread by word of mouth – so ask around in your local community.
The internet and social media are also good ways to search for local running clubs.
Here are some of the best websites to find running clubs:
- Strava (Worldwide)
- Nike Running Club (Worldwide)
- RunTogether (UK)
- England Athletics (UK)
- Time Out Doors (UK)
- Parkrun website (Worldwide)
- Road Runners Club of America (US)
- USA Track and Field (US)
- Running in the USA (US)
- Facebook (Worldwide)
- Instagram (Worldwide)
- Meetup (Worldwide)
- Run Good Guide (UK)
10 running clubs changing the world one step at a time
#1 ASRA (UK)
The founder of ASRA started the run group so Muslim women could have a safe space to run.
Since then it has grown to become a community centered on Muslim women in sports, wellness and sisterhood.
#2 A Mile In Her Shoes (UK)
A Mile in Her Shoes is a UK registered charity helping women at risk of homelessness to change their lives through running and fitness.
Their mission is to empower women to get moving and find their feet as they move on from homelessness.
#3 Let’s Run Girls (UK)
Let’s Run Girls inspires women to lead healthier, happier and more connected lives through weekly running sessions across the south of England.
It’s a community-led movement that brings women together for their shared love of running and physical activity.
#4 Badass Lady Gang (US)
The Badass Lady Gang is a running community made by women, for women.
Their focus is on feeling strong, ditching diet culture in the process.
They also believe that fitness should be fun – whether you love to run or hate it!
#5 The Frontrunners (UK & US)
The Frontrunners movement began in San Francisco in the mid-1970s.
The movement is about encouraging running among people from the LGBT+ community and their allies all around the world.
The CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) Running Collective is a running club aimed at people affected by suicide and those raising money or awareness about it.
It brings together people, providing them with human contact and community to get together and do things they love and feel better for.
#7 Akron Running Club (US)
Love dogs? The Akron Running Club is running club that takes rescue dogs out for runs.
Not only do you have the chance to stay healthy, but you also help dogs and puppies to have fun, get out of the kennels and lessen their stress levels.
#8 Black Girls Run (US)
Black Girls Run is a national organisation with chapters across the US.
It was created to encourage black women to make healthy living and fitness a priority.
The group hosts weekly runs, races and meet ups and also holds virtual challenges.
#9 Achilles International (US and worldwide)
Achilles International began in 1983 when Dick Traum, an above-the-knee amputee founded the club.
Its mission is to transform the lives of people living with disabilities through athletic programmes and social connection.
The club operates in 18 countries worldwide, including 28 chapters in the US.
#10 Another Mother Runner (US)
Another Mother Runner (AMR) gives mothers the support they need to keep running after pregnancy and childbirth and through all the stresses that come with parenthood.
Their website offers an online community as well as training plans, podcasts, books and guidance.
AMR describes itself as a “large, vibrant, inclusive (and free) community of female runners worldwide.