Community running programs are an important part of building an endurance race brand. By encouraging members of your community to run throughout the week with like-minded peers, you give them a way to train for upcoming races, a chance to be social and opportunities to engage with your brand—all at the same time. Building a community running program from the bottom up can be a daunting prospect but is doable with today’s tools and technologies. Keep in mind your goals and the benefits to the community, and use existing structures within the community to establish a program without overextending yourself.
Why a Community Running Program?
It’s no secret that running is one of the most practiced and popular sports worldwide. In 2016, more than 64 million people went jogging or running, and running groups in just about every community around the globe are becoming more and more popular. Aside from the social aspect, a community running program is a positive way to foster passion within various groups and make them more accessible. Conqur Endurance Group recently expanded this concept with its LA Road Runners Training Program. This program was designed to provide affordable, local, certified and regimented training for established running groups.
“The LA Road Runners program was building on the idea that we can accomplish more when we are united,” Murphy Reinschreiber, Conqur Endurance Group Chief Operating Officer told Endurance Sportswire. “This expansion is the first step in uniting the Greater Los Angeles running community to create incredible positive change.”
A community running program also has a public health effect on potential participants and their neighbors. Running is relatively inexpensive and requires nothing more than a good route, weather-appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes. Running also decreases rates of obesity and healthcare costs. According to the Trust for America’s Health Organization, around $117 billion in healthcare costs are associated with inadequate levels of physical activity. In addition, the World Health Organization recommends regular physical activity, such as walking or cycling as a fundamental component of energy balance and weight control.
Communities of all kinds can benefit by providing a regimented, inexpensive and regular health event to their members. Beyond Monumental Organization recently organized its Fall Race Training Program for more advanced runners—full and half marathon participants—to prepare them for the fall race series. As an incentive, this training program is offered at no cost to club members, with suggested distances and adjustable training plans.
Power Your Community With a Local Running Program
The simplest community running programs are made up of people who simply meet to run. Going beyond that, it’s a good idea to have reliable volunteer pace runners, race trainers and several organizers. A running-friendly meeting spot is also a necessity and can be a great way to involve other businesses or even your sponsors. Hosting a running or finish-line meetup can be appealing to local running stores, gyms or even bars or restaurants that would be able to offer a post-run meal or beverage discount, such as Jack Quinn’s Running Club.
Jack Quinn’s Running Club began at a pub in downtown Colorado Springs in 2006, with 70 runners in search of free pasta, bread, salad and discounted beer. Now more than 1,200 runners swarm the pub every Tuesday after running the 5K route in search of the same thing; discounted pints, food, merchandise and the most important aspect: fun.
Support Runners With a Camp or Clinic
You may also want to consider offering a camp to help participants focus on the same thing in a safe, supportive environment like the race directors from Active at Altitude and the American Trail Running Association did. They offer different “running camps” to help beginners and expert runners enhance their trail running skills. According to Active at Altitude’s website these camps are designed for just about everyone, as runners come with an expectation that trail running will be “too hard.” However, as the site mentions, the reality is that while it is challenging, the mental and spiritual benefits far outweigh the physical challenges.
Whether it’s a club or a camp, your program should incorporate a form of communication with the community to inform participants of updates, news and more. On the digital communication side, social media is an easy and free way to organize and advertise your group. Facebook groups allow you to send out messages, organize recurring events and advertise to people in your community who might be interested in joining. The Dallas Running Club is one example of a group leveraging the power of social media to promote its training programs, social events and partnership organizations.
More established running programs will have T-shirt sponsors, websites, group calendars and even discounts at local running shops or shoe stores. But those are all just icing on the cake to building a strong program.
Partner With Established Running Groups
Because running is such an easy fitness activity to break into, it’s no wonder many national community organizations already have running programs. The YMCA, Jewish Community Center and many gyms likely sponsor weekly running groups you can leverage to help increase participation in your endurance event.
Youth organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) are often on the lookout for ways to help their members meet up and participate in a safe, health-focused event, and creating a weekly or biweekly opportunity to do so will increase group participation, too. Partnering with these organizations can give both your event and their mission a boost from positive public relations with local news outlets, such as this story coming from Denver. A local business, Corner Store, partnered with BBBS to host a “down home family fun” event, benefiting BBBS and local children’s charities across the country.
Most organizations that already host community runs are happy to have volunteer help with their general organization, pace runners and advice on training regimens. If you have a large volunteer team for your event already, incorporating it into the existing community run program can give it another social outlet to interact, as well as great free marketing for your event.
Community running programs can have a long-term effect on your community, your endurance event and the race industry as a whole. By offering fitness and health activities to your community, you build goodwill with prospective participants and a greater level of fitness. You’ll also help increase social interaction among runners, giving them even more reason to join in on fitness events around the area. In addition, your program will develop a good reputation with local community organizations and gyms and give your own volunteers another reason to be involved. Community running programs are an inexpensive and beneficial way to grow your race community locally. Best of luck starting your own!