Running: The New Cool Way to Connect and Get Fit

Last Updated: June 13, 2024By

Running: The New Cool Way to Connect and Get Fit

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Alright, picture this: It’s just before 9 AM on a bright April morning in Greenwich, southeast London. The sun is shining, and there’s a bit of a chill in the air. Runners are gathering around the iconic Cutty Sark. At first, there are just a few of us, but soon the numbers swell to around 40. For a newbie like me, it’s a bit awkward at first—everyone’s shivering and making small talk. But then, we all form a big circle, do a quick warm-up, and set off for a gentle 5km jog around Blackheath. By 10 AM, we’re all cozy in a local café, chatting over coffee.

You can find scenes like this all over the country every weekend. Running has become insanely popular—almost 580,000 people applied for this year’s London Marathon, up 120,000 from last year. But what’s really booming are these casual, community-focused running clubs. They host regular, laid-back running events for anyone looking to train, make new friends, or just get out of the house.

 

I joined the Runner Beans Club (RBC)—a fun name, right? The founders love ending their runs with a coffee. But I could have easily joined other cool clubs like Run Happy in Sheffield, Croissant Run Club in Glasgow, Freelancers Running Club in Leeds, or the Left Handed Giant Run Club in Bristol.

The Joy of Casual Running Clubs

Lydia Douglas, 28, co-founded RBC. She started running seriously during the lockdown and loves how running offers a way for people to meet and hang out without involving alcohol. She and her partner, Joel Sanders, started RBC 18 months ago. Now, they’re part of a trend that includes groups like Your Friendly Runners in Hackney, Mafia Moves in Tottenham, and Scrambled Legs in Battersea.

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These casual running clubs are a chill alternative to traditional running clubs, which can be all about formal training and competition. Ben Hobson, from Runner’s World UK, says this relaxed vibe has been around for a while. He points to London’s Run Dem Crew, founded in 2007, as one of the first. The running was important, sure, but it was more about bringing people together. Since the pandemic, these clubs have exploded in popularity. Expect good vibes, group photos, and a shared love for café culture.

Running and Style: A Perfect Match

At RBC, a photographer runs with us to capture the fun. Hobson mentions how social media has drawn people into running, linking it to the sport’s aesthetic and the trend for cool adventure wear. Brands like Arc’teryx, Hoka, and Satisfy make stylish, upscale running gear that people love. (Satisfy’s eight-inch Techsilk shorts, for example, cost a jaw-dropping £180!)

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In Greenwich, there’s definitely a “look” among the runners. Everyone’s young, from early 20s to late 30s. You’ll see lots of tight, cycling-style shorts, brightly colored trainers with huge foam soles, visor-like sunglasses, and even some ultramarathon-style backpacks.

Merch: The New Badge of Honor

The common thread? Merchandise. Most runners sport the white RBC club tee or the green club socks, or both. The shirt is a simple crew neck with the club’s logo—a coffee cup with legs—printed small on the front and large on the back. It’s more streetwear than marathon gear.

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Merch has become a big part of these running clubs. Every club offers something, from baseball caps to technical running jackets. Douglas and Sanders didn’t plan on merch at first, but the demand was clear. “You get inspired by other clubs,” says Douglas, “and people kept asking for it.” One runner said it’s nice to have something to “buy into” when joining, while another admitted she buys merch from Your Friendly Runners as soon as it’s released.

The Social Side of Running Gear

Given the young, creative, and style-conscious nature of the core group, it’s no surprise that running club shirts have become a cool day-to-day style marker. “When I wear this RBC shirt, I feel like I’m part of a tribe,” says Kyle Ayuba, 28, a designer and RBC member. He often wears it outside of running. “I can wear it for sport or lifestyle. It feels very universal.”

RBC produces its merch through Everpress, an online retailer that lets people upload designs and sell stock on a made-to-order basis. Gaia De Siena, from Everpress, says running-themed T-shirts are a recent phenomenon. “I’m not surprised since running is something everyone is getting into right now,” she says, noting how designs reflect what’s currently relevant in culture and society.

Hobson believes fashion and running have always coexisted. He points to New Balance’s 990 trainer, released in 1982 as a running shoe, as an example. The sport’s rise in the style stakes has pushed prices up, making some feel they need to spend a lot to be part of it. But anything that gets people running is good. “If wearing stylish gear makes people feel comfortable and eager to run, then go for it.”

A Sense of Belonging

In the end, it’s all about community. These running clubs offer more than just exercise—they provide a sense of belonging and a chance to connect with others. Whether you’re running for fitness, fun, or friendship, there’s a place for you. So, lace up those brightly colored trainers, grab a cool club tee, and join the fun. Who knows, you might just find your new favorite way to spend a Saturday morning.

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