Every day, Tes Sobomehin weaves throughout the hilly streets of Atlanta, Ga., followed by hundreds of others. She’s leading a movement that’s growing in numbers across the United States and around the world: the emergence of the running club.
Sobomehin joined her first running club three years ago through Facebook. She saw a need for more community exercise groups and was inspired to organize her first club in 2011 under the Black Girls Run umbrella.
She has since left Black Girls Run to create
the neighboring West Midtown
Run Club, which has grown from a core group of five runners to up to 30 people meeting every week. And although Sobomehin dedicates most of
her time to the West Midtown Run Club, she continues to organize special monthly events
for groups throughout the Atlanta area.
Why are clubs -- where initiation includes shin splints, blisters and chondromalacia (aka “runner’s knee”) -- so popular? “It’s the consistency and accountability," Sobomehin says. "They meet at the same time regardless of how many people show up or what the weather is that day.”
Not only are running clubs a source of ongoing motivation,
they provide results. According to Rodney Dishman, professor of exercise
science at the University of Georgia, “Studies show that (exercising) in groups
He says unlike a race, there is no competition within the group. As it turns out, running clubs motivate individuals to push themselves harder, inevitably quickening everyone’s pace. Then there’s the social benefit people gain from working out with friends, as they look forward to their weekly group runs. An added bonus is that these runs come without the expense of a gym membership.
While running clubs host athletes of all abilities, many focus on connecting people of similar backgrounds, race and gender. “Running clubs are a great way to serve any underserved group,” says Sobomehin. “Running has become overwhelmingly popular for women, and they are the majority of participants in road races,” she says. Black Girls Run chapters, for example, bring together African American women in more than 60 U.S. cities.
The structures of run clubs differ in size and leadership
across locations. Some bigger clubs like North Brooklyn Runners offer
multiple runs a week that cater to people with different schedules.
According to member Beth Rodgers, “We have about two runs every day of the week. We have morning runs
and evening runs almost every day. There is not a lot of oversight of the club,
so we welcome people to plan a run at different times of the week.”
In New York City alone, there are nearly 60 registered running clubs.
Rodgers, who is travelling to Uganda in a few weeks, found
several clubs in the area where she is staying. "If you can find one
there, you can find one anywhere around the world,” she said.
Whether training for a marathon, running a 5K or looking for a reason to start running, clubs are designed to cater to runners’ specific needs, offering safe and friendly environments for athletes of all abilities. Run clubs operate for free year-round and are available all over the world. As Sobomehin says, “We (running groups) are always happy to welcome newcomers.”
Searching for a running club in your area? Here are a few tips: