The latest breed of running crews and communities are disrupting the culture of running – and inspiring more of us to start.
Runners aren’t all hard core, wiry ultramarathoners any more. Social media has played a fundamental role in connecting alternative running groups, crews and communities with a much wider audience – women, young people and those who work in the creative industries.
Thesis Run Cru began as a streetwear and lifestyle brand in 2005 – with a small store in the Sowetan township of Mofolo Village, selling T-shirts and bucket hats inspired by art, graffiti and music of the youth culture in the streets. The group now has 50–60 members who meet regularly at the store for a run, and hang out at the store for parties afterwards. Joining Thesis also creates opportunities to travel. ‘The Bridge The Gap movement allows us to connect with other run crews from around the world, using the hashtag #btg on Instagram. The idea is to visit another crew and run with them. After, there’s a party or braai,’ says founder Wandile Zondo. ‘I wouldn’t have thought of travelling to Botswana to compete in the Gaborone Marathon, had I not been invited by the RunWidIt crew.’
In 2014, Sabrina Walter and Leni Ullrich founded Catch Me If You Can (CMIYC), an all-female running community that now connects more than 25 000 women nationwide. On the CMIYC app, there are details of weekly group runs for women, hosted by CMIYC leaders at a variety of locations, such as cities, wine farms and coastal villages. You can use it to connect with other members and track activities. There’s also an online magazine where you’ll find stories and advice.
Even traditional running clubs are bridging the gap between beginners and experienced runners. The Penguins forms part of Cape Town-based Atlantic Athletic Club, and helps 200 novice runners achieve their goals, whether that’s a 5 kay or a half-marathon. Running events have followed suit. Fancy swapping water stops for wine tasting at a trail-running race, or wearing neon to a night run? Now you can.
A running group, community or crew is either free to join, or you pay a once-off or annual fee. That covers social events, a gazebo at races, advice, motivation and meaningful friendships. Ask yourself: Would you get the same bang for your buck from a monthly gym membership that costs thousands?
But if running has become more social, does that mean running has become less about … running? Oh, on the contrary! Running with company – as opposed to going solo – can make you a better athlete.
It’s less intimidating
No one is ever left behind, or made to feel their achievements are anything less than anyone else’s. Thesis has sweepers who run at the back with the slower members, and different pacing groups, all the way down to one that uses a mixture of running and walking.
For the full article on the benefits of joining a running club, get your September issue of Fit life.