How I Started a Running Club
By: Jordan Bartholme
In life you sometimes have what you're sure is a good idea or venture. You spend lots of time and effort trying to figure out how to make it a success, only to constantly fight the feeling that you're swimming upstream. Sometimes you fail, and in these times hopefully learn from the failure and become stronger and wiser because of it. Other times you push on and don't give up. You dig in and keep at it because you BELIEVE in what you're doing and why you're doing it. One day, as a result of your hard work, dedication, and perseverance, you are rewarded with success. Well, this isn't one of those kinds of stories, but rather a story about how I accidentally created a running club.
This weekly run with friends ended up strengthening both my body and my mind and has led to many great friendships along the way. The positive experiences of creating and being a part of a running club have really been inspirational and it's something I wanted to share with others.
Like with many endeavors, I think the simplest truth is that the greatest result is born not out of perfect planning or even perfect timing, but rather from genuinely caring for and trying to serve others. To put it simply, sometimes you have to forget what you want and start focusing on what others are looking for. My running club actually started out as an idea for a post-Bible study hangout group.
I help out with a campus ministry called Mustard Seed Group that serves international visiting students from China. We wanted to create a time for these students to get together informally after our normal meetings just to hang out and strengthen friendships. The trouble was our meetings ended late, especially for this group of college students who are typically tied down with hours of homework each night. So, when my accomplice Jimmy and I first started throwing around the idea of late night social gatherings, we were met (unsurprisingly in hindsight) with crickets. We needed to find another option to get the group together each week.
One Sunday afternoon in late July, Jimmy and I were sitting down for lunch with two of our student friends from the ministry. Jimmy was explaining enthusiastically how he had started jogging again the past week, after not having done so since high school
The three of us listened as he described how he had started out tentatively with a short run earlier in the week, not wanting to overdo it or risk injury. Encouraging results led to slightly longer runs each day. By the time we were listening to him, he had done 4 miles that day and felt great! It was at this point he asked the question that would change everything, "So, what do you girls do for fun and exercise?" They replied with, "Oh, we jog sometimes too, when we can find the time." Someone suggested that we meet and jog together and the following Thursday the four of us gathered in a park for what would become the inaugural meeting of the Light After Dark Running Club." The run was short but enjoyable with a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie.
The next week there were 9 of us, then 12, then 16... something was definitely afoot.
If you want to start your own club, my best advice is to put relationships first and let everything else fall into place. It’s hard to fail when you focus on others first. Listen carefully to what they want and need, and let the rest work itself out. Starting a running club is like a lot of things in life; the more you focus outwardly on the people around you, the easier it will be to hear and see their real needs and desires, and the better equipped you’ll be to serve them. Provide for the needs of others and your venture will find success; in running and in life.
Looking back, some things started falling into place that were instrumental and perhaps necessary to our early success:
Someone with a drive and passion for the activity at hand. Jimmy was our spark and his excitement about his newly rekindled love of running was what set us in motion.
Someone to take the excitement of what you are doing out into the world. Ruby's gregarious personality and infectious positive spirit was primarily responsible for the rapid and surprising growth of our little friendly running club.
A Support Team
People you can count on to back you up with all the behind the scenes things like carpooling logistics, venue and route, planning, membership and attendance, record keeping, group announcements, scheduling, and all the other unknowns that come up along the way. Without them, the group would quickly fall apart.
Someone has to stand up, rally the troops, and guide them through stretching. Truth be told, the leader's real job is just to funnel all the good ideas and enthusiasm into a coherent and consistent atmosphere. With a good team, this is the easiest job of all.
If you want to start your own running club, here are a few tips as you get started:
Consider the groups you're already a part of and the people you already know. Most importantly, find a friend or a small core group who want to run regularly and are committed to showing up.
Finding Your "Thing"
Your group needs an identity. What makes your running club different from the hundreds of others out there? Our focus is on biblical friendships and building community. Your group may share other common interests like a love of Star Trek, board games, or beer. What it is isn't important, but having a common tie. If you can co-brand your group, it will be more likely to stick together long-term.
Don't Over Do It
Distance and intensity can vary quite a bit based on where everyone is starting from and the aspirations of your group. You should aim low at first and just focus on sticking together and finishing a short course. going too hard too fast may not only discourage people, but could also lead to strains and injuries.
More than almost anything else, consistency is key. You should try to find a regular day and stick to it. Commit to having a run every week, regardless of how many people show up. Skipping runs here and there for whatever reason will be the beginning of the end. Stay consistent and make sure someone is committed to being there every week (even if it's just you!).