One of the first lines that come out of most new runners mouths is “I’m not a runner”. That’s a problem. All too often, individuals who run see running as an exclusive club or title, that they disassociate themselves from claiming to be an athlete of the sport. Enter “the running club”. The popularity of running groups has soared and attempted to bridge the gap between elite-level runners, weekend warriors and running novices. However, thats not to say it’s not without its critics.
The conversation surrounding running groups is two-fold. To begin, the biggest problem is that the running community can be very exclusive from the outside, when in fact it ought to be the most inviting and open to all. Running is one of the natural sports for human kind. If you run and have running related goals (whether your hoping to make it to the next lamppost or training for an upcoming marathon). You. Are. A. Runner.
But not so fast. The growing running community – which includes groups, clubs and teams – is positively reconceptualising what it is to be a runner. The community ranges from niche beer loving running groups to diligently dedicated Boston Marathon qualifying clubs. All too often people assume that you need race or have a speed goal in mind to be considered a “runner”. Running groups have opened the playing field for a more inclusive running environment.
While many people criticize running groups for being elitist, exclusive or glorified social groups, they often fail to see the point that regardless of the flaws that may arise, all running clubs centre around the love of running. Should we not be celebrating that? Sure we can all get a little obsessed or high strung about the small details (like our annoyingly specific hydration routines or mile splits). But, if we strip away all of that “fluff”, the simplistic sport running truly shines.
Running in groups has proven to be overwhelmingly beneficial to individuals. Theories such as “pack mentality” and the phenomenon of “social facilitation” demonstrate that individuals perform better in the presence of others. A running community provides accountability, consistency and motivation on every level. For most runners, simply feeling a sense of social obligation drive their behaviour to run more.
What’s more, the rise in social media platforms has completely altered the concept of a physical face-to-face running community. From websites such as Strava where people share their training routes to apps such as Instagram that provide motivation following hashtags like #instarunners, the modern runner has never been so uniquely equipped to make personal connections and enjoy motivational camaraderie.
The rise in both competitive and non-competitive running groups has changed the running landscape. Individuals seize the opportunity to develop friendships but also get to experience a competitive edge. Even the least victory-hungry of us can be pushed by running with others. So before bashing running clubs for “diluting the competitive sport of running” or “being annoying”, lets celebrate the fact that the running community is growing. No matter how slow or social a group may be, they’re lapping everyone sitting on the couch!
What do you think of running groups? What part of the running community is your favourite?