Creating a Supportive Community: How to Encourage More Women to Join Running Groups

This post has been written by Becky & Lydia, runtheworldMCR co-founders

Instagram – runtheworldMCR | #foundedonfriendship

When anyone is looking to join a new group it can feel intimidating, you doubt your own ability and if you’re like me, you might find yourself making excuses for several weeks about why next week would be a better time to join! This is definitely the experience I faced when first joining a running group – it was actually well over two years before I plucked up the courage to join after first contacting them.

Running groups can feel competitive, you feel you need to let people know “I’m a bit slow” or “I’m not really a runner” several times just to set expectations, especially as a woman, we have a very bad habit of putting ourselves down! But what if you knew the group you were joining would add so much value to your life that goes far beyond achieving your fitness goals, creating lifelong friends, providing you with support and bringing you joy each week. 

After four months of attending weekly sessions at a local running group and not really meeting anyone I connected with, I was fortunate enough to meet my friend Lydia. This was just before we went into lockdown in March 2020 so when lockdown hit we started taking our daily exercise together, very handy that we also happened to live on the next street to each other. We became the best of friends, really bonding through running and supporting each other through lockdown. 

When the lockdown was lifted we decided we didn’t really want to travel to our old club and the times now we worked from home didn’t really work for us, we also wanted to be part of something a little different, something that offered more of a community feel than just being about running. So we had an idea, wouldn’t it be great if we had an all women’s running club in our local area of Monton? We would make sure it was friendly, supportive and would provide all the things we were looking for when joining previous groups.

We set up an Instagram account “runtheworldMCR” and just 8 days later we had our first run! We were thrilled to have 9 ladies attend (okay, 4 were our friends but we were so excited that people had responded to our Instagram post). Now 18 months on we can’t believe what we’ve created and the amazing community of supportive women we’ve been lucky enough to meet. 

RuntheworldMCR is founded on friendship, it’s so important to us that when women join our group they know they aren’t just joining for a run, they are joining to become part of our community. A group of women who lift each other up, encourage and support. We are passionate about breaking down the barriers women face when wanting to pick up running including safety, confidence and work/ personal commitments. We’ve had over 300 women attend a run with us and have now expanded our group to include a walking group, making us even more accessible. We welcome bumps, buggies and dogs as we are so aware these can be barriers as to why women can’t attend running groups.

Women join initially for the running but stay for the community. We often get feedback about how welcome we’ve made people feel, we really make an effort to go and speak to anyone new or anyone standing on their own. We are so lucky that all our ladies do the same and it’s amazing when we overhear our girls telling new starters about why they love the group and how supportive it is. 

It really is amazing to see the girls all take on their own challenges, earlier in the year several completed the Manchester Marathon, some for the first time and others to beat PBs. We had a cheer squad out in force and had so many thanks from the girls for coming out to support them. It was quite emotional when we saw our last girl, she was touched we had waited for her to ensure she had the same cheer squad cheering her on at 23 miles that the other girls had. The following week one of the girls gave us a voucher for afternoon tea which said;

“Treat yourselves to afternoon tea, you both deserve it so much. Thank you both for your dedication and motivation you give to runtheworldMCR. This club has made me feel so welcome and has inspired and enabled me to run a marathon! I love the community you have both worked so hard to create.”

This was such a lovely reminder of just how much the girls get from our group. 

There are so many social running groups like ours that would make you feel so welcome if you attended. We know if all groups were like ours we’d encourage so many more women to get active and stay active. If you’re thinking about joining a group, go for it. Do your research online and get a feel for what the group are like. If you’re still feeling unsure drop them a message, and you’ll soon be able to get a feel for their community – you only have to visit our Instagram page and see all our girls smiling faces to know it’s a group you’d want to be part of. We’d love to get more women’s running groups going across the UK.

If you’d like to see a runtheworld in your area drop us a message, we would love to expand in areas that could benefit from what we’ve created in Manchester. 

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