Lily Trotters Brand Champion, Holly Manigan, shares her experience making new friends through the sport of running.
After nearly 22 hours of travel, I step off the plane. I am on the other side of the planet. Almost literally. Technically, from Boston, MA, the other side of the planet would be about 1,500 kilometers off the southwest coast of Australia, with nothing but the Indian Ocean around me; but Auckland, New Zealand feels close enough to say: I am on the other side of the planet.
In addition to building my new web (bank account, phone number, driving license, place to call home, etc), I realize: I have no friends.
At first, that’s okay. I am busy exploring my new home. I find a really great market that sells fresh, local produce; and I am excited to discover really cool brands for all my toiletry needs. I enjoy a few meals out and I begin to feel at home – but how do I become a member of this community? How do I go from visitor, to at home.
Perhaps you haven’t moved around the world. Maybe you just need to find “your people.” But, as an adult, you won’t likely find yourself in a school full of people your age, all looking to play outside together during recess. Of course, you may make friends at work. You might meet other parents if you have children, or a fur baby. But, how do you meet your people?
How do you “make friends” without joining some platonic dating app on your phone? How can you make the process feel… natural?
I joined a Run Club.
Since then, I have moved a few more times; and each time I seek out the running community. I have met countless humans who have welcomed me into their lives. I have built lifelong friendships that have left me changed for the better. I have had experiences that will stay with me for a lifetime.
From personal experience, allow me to share 6 reasons why joining a run club, even if you’re not “a runner,” is the best way to make new (and awesome) friends:
1. A Welcoming Space
Run clubs are not just for competitive racers. There will be a space for you, no matter your running experience, your pace, or your distance. There will be support and empowerment, as well as judgement free laughter. Open arms and encouragement await you.
2. A Shared Interest
Sure, Annie from work is nice, but you might not have much in common with her. If you are a runner, and you join a run club, that’s one hurdle down: a shared common interest! And, that interest won’t end with running. You will likely share a general love for the outdoors, an interest in personal wellness and fitness, and maybe even a shared sense of adventure.
3. Discover New Places
The person preparing the routes (hopefully a run coach!) will likely bring you to places you may not have found on your own, at least not immediately. Keep your eyes peeled as you put in the miles – you may see places along your run that you will want to go check out after the run is over (maybe with one of the friends you just made while out on said run!).
4. They’ll “Get” You
Sure, your non-runner friends support you, but do they “get” it? With a fellow runner, you can talk nutrition, apparel, pacing and more. Only another runner can empathize with and appreciate conversations about lost toenails and pre-race bowel movement rituals.
5. Meaningful Connection
Not only will the group “get” you, but also, when you’re out there running, with nothing to do but talk between breathes, you will have the opportunity to get to know each other in a deep and meaningful way. Some of my most intimate conversations have been out on a run. You can be there for your friends, and they can be there for you.
6. A Bigger Community
In addition to creating bonds with those out there sweating with you, you will also learn more about the greater community in your new city or town. The members of most run groups range in age, career, and outside interests – with running bringing them all together. As such, you will be referred to book clubs, great little boutique shops, and awesome craft beer bars. They will introduce you to people they think you will like and, from there, your friend group will grow in a meaningful way – stemming from shared interests and honest connections.
On a final note, it’s to be expected that the very act of finding a club may be intimidating or hard to do. Allow me to leave you with two potential leads:
1. Park Run. A free, weekly, timed event – operated by volunteers, open to everyone (whether you walk, jog, run or volunteer), and held globally. If you’re shy, start at the back of the pack. If you’re on the extroverted side, introduce yourself to the coordinator and put yourself on the volunteer list. Not only is the Park Run community a huge community, but the weekly event is also a “race.” And races are fun.
2. November Project. A free, volunteer led, community driven workout group with a focus on inclusivity, connection, and lots of hugs. With over 52 locations worldwide, their motto is Just Show Up. And show up you should, regardless of your age, shape or size – this group of rad humans is waiting for you.
So, get out there, have fun, and make new friends! Hopefully you will soon find yourself at an event, sharing congratulatory beverages and marveling at the community in which you have found yourself.