Finding a Running Community Changed How I Made Friendships
By Faith Rivers
“Finding your community” is a topic that’s been trending for a while now. Whether it be a friendship circle, a church group, a business network or otherwise, the desire to feel a sense of connection and belonging with like-minded people is one of our most basic human needs. It’s no surprise, then, that even in what is traditionally viewed as a solo sport, running communities are a cornerstone of what makes many people love running.
As a child, I grew up a military brat, with the notion that moving every three years was normal. This meant getting used to completely uprooting my life over and over again. Each time my family would be dropped into a new state where I had to make new friends, navigate a new school and determine a new pattern for my home life. The one constant in my life was my family, the military and my dog, each of which kept me grounded. They were, in essence, my community.
Years later, I chased professional opportunities as a college graduate that led me to the D.C. area, where I had to find my new normal. I found myself in a new state with no family, no military and no dog. I was missing my community.
I no longer had school as my sole avenue for developing friendships with others, but I had no idea how to look for those connections elsewhere. I felt out of place and restless and, for the next year, I tried to fill that void with relationships, partying and drowning myself in work. None of those options served the purpose I was really seeking, nor were they healthy.
When I shared with some friends that I was looking to meet new people in a more healthy and genuine atmosphere, a few of them mentioned District Running Collective (DRC), a local running club. It sounded interesting, but I didn’t automatically join the group. Instead, I signed up for the newsletter and followed them on social media for months. It took the end of a relationship for me to have the guts to try out my first run, without knowing anyone nor what to expect.
My ‘trial day’ was one where Under Armour (which partners with DRC) showed up and showed out. I was greeted with a t-shirt, smiles, a large community of people who looked like me, and a great run. To top things off, that day there was even a post-run party complete with music and food.
It’s easy to say that I came back the second week because I was expecting the same treatment, but in reality, I had already connected with others on that first run. The same week I had people reaching out to me to ask if I would return. It was at that moment that I realized this wasn’t just some group of runners that happened to all run at the same time. This was a community of genuine people who cared about each other’s well being. This was also, refreshingly, the first time I had interacted with a large group of people who didn’t immediately ask where I work or what I do.
This new crew became my outlet. Belonging to a group with a structured running schedule immediately brought back a sense of normalcy to my life, reminiscent of when I ran cross country and track in high school. Making new friends and having a new way to explore my new city were added benefits.
There are still times when I question my sanity as I lace up for a 6:00 a.m. start time at a race or when I add on a bunch of layers to prepare for a winter run. But the strength of my running community--their example, their checking on me, their support for my continuous improvement--is what ultimately pulls me out of bed and reminds me that this isn’t some crazy thing. I’m not alone, my community is with me.
This safe, fun and lively atmosphere is not only the reason why I continue to run with my run crew, it’s why I run, period.
Follow Faith’s running journey on Instagram @f_rivers.
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