Up and down the country, every day of the week, in every city and town, social running clubs are in action.
I established a new, free social running club in June 2019, in Birmingham. We’re called the Green Heart Runners, named after the striking and beautiful new parkland at the heart of the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus, where we meet on a weekly basis.
To join a social running club you don’t need to be a fast or competitive runner. Luckily, to lead a social running club you don’t need these attributes either! I set up the club after completing a one-day course with England Athletics. I didn’t really feel qualified when I nervously led my first session with two other brave runners. Now with 40 sessions under my belt and an average of at least 20 runners per session I still don’t consider myself anything approaching a running expert but I’ve come to learn that this doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is a mechanism to get people active and social in a safe and friendly environment. And this is happening the length and breadth of the country. There are hundreds of clubs and thousands of runners.
Some very well established clubs have multiple run leaders and can have separate groups of runners organised according to distance or pace. At the Green Heart Runners we run as one group currently and I create routes with options to increase or decrease the distance, and muster-back points to help keep everyone together. We are looking to get more run leaders trained up soon though, so we may be able to offer different groups in the future.
Our sessions are one hour in length and in between a warm-up and warm-down we cover between three to four miles. Currently it takes two of us generally to lead the group, and the eyes and ears of other runners as well to look out for each other. But this is the great thing about our club, and many other clubs. Yes, we run, we get fit and have fun, but there’s a great spirit developing. People are meeting new colleagues and making friends they wouldn’t have otherwise made and comment on an array of benefits beyond simply improved fitness.
If you’re thinking about joining social a running club, especially now the evenings are getting lighter, do it! You’ll find that they are full of friendly, social people who will support you, look out for you and celebrate your progress. A good place to start looking is by putting your postcode in to the RunTogether website.
Personally I find running improves my physical and mental health and reduces physical and mental weight. Problems only ever seem smaller in size after a run. Leading one club, and being a member of another social running club (Run Brum Crew), has widened my social and professional networks and made me a healthier and happier person.