When you scroll Instagram as a runner, you might start noticing everyone seems to have a crew of runners, whether an official team or run crew or just a group of friends who run together. If you don’t have one yet, don’t despair: It’s not hard to start a run squad of your own.
Often, the best running buddies aren’t going to be your current best friends or your spouse, especially if they hate to run. That’s OK because running with a group of like-minded pavement pounders who progress with you and motivate you makes running so much more rewarding.
Here are a few pointers in navigating new running-centric friendships:
Before you decide to start a professional-level running squad with 50 members and a uniform, take a few months to find a core group of people to run with. Often, that’s enough, but either way, slow growth is better for sustainability than trying to make a huge run club happen overnight.
TRY THE GYM
A lot of gyms now offer running classes, and signing up for one can help you find like-minded souls who run the same pace as you without the awkwardness of inviting people on a run only to realize you’ve wrongly assumed you’d run well together.
FIND PEOPLE WITH SIMILAR RUN SCHEDULES
Often, what makes a run club stay together is when everyone can only run at a certain time of day. The best friends to keep around are the 6 a.m. running buddies or the 8 p.m. joggers. Think about what time you fit running into your day — whether it’s at the gym before work, on a trail at lunch or a loop before dinner — and notice the people around you who follow the same timeline.
SAY HI ON THE TRAIL
This one is tough: Balance being friendly with not being creepy or coming off as aggressive. But, if you see the same person day after day on the same trails or roads as you, start with a friendly nod for a few days and progress to a hello. If the person seems receptive to chatting, you can strike up a conversation — but if it’s clear he or she prefers running alone and isn’t interested in small talk, respect that and back off.
ASK AT YOUR LOCAL RUN SHOP
You may be surprised to realize there are actually a few local run clubs already, but if there aren’t, a local run shop can help spread the word that you’re looking for some fellow runners, or might be able to point you toward a few of the stores’ regulars. (Remember, most people who work at run shops are avid runners, so you might even score a new member just by talking to them.)
LOOK FOR LOCAL RACES
There are more and more small local weeknight races cropping up around the country — these relaxed, relatively chill races help runners push their pace and practice while also often offering a social component afterward. These are great spots to mingle with the pack you raced with and get to know more local runners.
You can obviously meet fellow runners when you toe the line at a race, but if you’re training seriously for an “A race” or you just don’t like the whole racing scene, volunteering is good karma and a good way to meet fellow runners. Most volunteers are runners themselves, and striking up a conversation in the feed zone can lead to a new running buddy the following week.
ALIGN ON GOALS AND BE OPEN-MINDED
You may not have the exact same aspirations as a potential running buddy, but it’s helpful if you’re generally trending toward the same type of goal — whether that’s getting outside and moving while catching up and chatting, creating a cross-country team that dominates local races or dropping a few pounds together. Another major reason run clubs fall apart is when one runner is dead-set on interval workouts on Wednesdays while another prefers a light jog to the nearest happy hour. Neither runner is wrong, but it might not be a great fit. Be willing to go with the flow. Maybe you’ll discover you thought you hated intervals, but you really love them.