I recently discussed the benefits of building a community of runners, as engaging with a host of other runners and athletes seems especially relevant right now. Spurred by recent world events and a growing appreciation for the vibrancy that comes from being surrounded by those of like mind, such a community seems more important than ever. Let’s explore some ideas for creating your own community that may be especially useful for athletes new to trail running and ultrarunning or for those who have recently moved to a new area.
Volunteer at an event
Volunteering at a trail or ultrarunning race provides the opportunity to interact with a host of people who share similar attitudes towards the outdoors. Almost all races rely heavily on volunteer support, so you’ll play a vital role for competitors and race organizers when interacting with new people. It’s also a great way to see firsthand how riders approach pit stops differently. You’ll also get an up-close and personal view of a new course or area. If you feel comfortable, offer to accompany and/or outfit another runner during the event, which is usually an option for races of 50 miles or more. Spending many hours traveling the earth together is a great way to get to know someone. It’s easy to make lifelong friends by offering to accompany or outfit a stranger. Volunteering to run has seemingly endless benefits and meeting other trail runners is definitely high on the list.
Organize a group race
You’re probably not the only runner looking for trail buddies, so invite others to join you on a local course. You may have a small turnout initially, but by sticking to a regular time and place, your group is likely to grow using old-fashioned word of mouth. Share these group runs on social media because, as we all know, social media is an obvious and relatively easy way to meet runners who may be looking to connect with new friends on the trails.
Speaking of social media platforms, using “Strava Flyby” is another way to meet other runners. Assuming you’re comfortable with your Strava Flyby setting enabled, you can see who you’ve passed on your rides (only applicable when other user(s) have their setting enabled). It’s a convenient way to initiate interaction from the comfort of your home without interrupting any of your errands in the moment.
Join a local running club
It might be an obvious option for making new friends on the trails, but many areas have long-standing local running clubs, so it’s an easy option. Members of these organizations will likely have intimate knowledge of local trail networks, which can be a huge advantage for someone new to an area or just getting into ultrarunning. Often a running club will be associated with a local sporting goods or outdoor store. The next time you need a new pair of running shoes or equipment, ask if there is a local running club. These clubs often hold group races and offer a variety of ways to get involved. Most racing organizations are eager to see new faces join their ranks. In addition to joining a local running organization, you can get a discount on running gear if they have local partners.
You probably bump into other trail runners quite frequently on popular trails, so be friendly, nod or wave or even strike up a quick conversation if the opportunity arises. If you run around the same time almost every day, chances are you’ll run into the same people frequently. If you tend to be shy, get wrapped up in your own workout, or don’t want to disrupt someone else’s workout, take this opportunity to say hello. If you find yourself on the same trail often enough at the same time of day, you at least have that in common. I met some of my dearest friends and training partners on a passing trail run. Looking back, I can’t imagine how different my personal community of runners would be if I hadn’t slowed down for a few minutes to make a new acquaintance. Making friends this way also gives each of you a great story to share on the road and it’s obviously a great connection point to meet during the activity you both enjoy.
If you’ve explored most of the suggestions above and come up empty-handed, don’t give up. You may consider participating in outdoor activities or events other than running that may overlap with the trail running community. There is often a great similarity between outdoor communities such as hiking groups, Nordic skiing, mountain biking or even rock climbing. As a bonus, you may have the chance to explore new trail networks as you embark on new avenues of outdoor travel.
Building your personal trail community isn’t necessarily easy, but the benefits of investing in events and others who share your love of trail running and ultrarunning are endless. Undoubtedly, each person will have a personalized approach to creating their group of runners and perhaps not all of the above suggestions will speak to you. Its good. Try to find your way through this adventure anyway. As a group, we know how to face the difficulties, but we don’t always have to embark on our adventures on the trails alone. I dare say that building a network of others who share your passion is a worthwhile endeavor that will deepen your appreciation and experiences in sports and running.