People find love in running clubs

Finding a partner through the quintessential meeting may seem like the stuff of fiction. In a world where dating apps are now the default, it can seem like IRL chance meetings are relegated to romance novels or novellas. That is, apparently, unless you join a running club.

For the uninitiated, a running club is a community group where people gather to run together. Sometimes that means running a 5K, walking a 20-mile run, or even speeding laps around a track. While run-focused meetup groups have been around for decades, they’ve seen a surge in popularity in the past couple of years, especially after the pandemic. Some people run clubs to build healthier habits, others train for a specific career, and many people seek a like-minded community. And while it’s not necessarily the main motivator to join, people are also increasingly finding themselves there.

Just take a few taps on the Venice Run Club (VRC) Los Angeles TikTok channel to give it a try. You’ll find numerous love stories that came about while logging miles, like Joe and Myrene, who met during one of the club’s track workouts. Their first date was (appropriately) a long run, followed by a yoga class, then Sweetgreen salads, and the rest is history.

“[A]As the running club grew, our relationship grew.”

And they’re not the only ones who find love at the running club, in fact, it’s how Justin Shields, the founder of VRC, met his wife, Erin Shields. “I had heard about the club from my co-worker who went to college with Justin,” Erin tells PS. It was introduced at the club’s second race, in August 2020, when there were only about five members (for context, VRC now attracts over 1,000 runners per week).

“I think what really drew me in was how it was such a fun community and a fun social group with a lot of energy,” says Erin, “so I kept coming back every week.”

During this time, she didn’t pay much attention to Justin, until one day he DMed her on Instagram to see if she wanted to go for a run with him. “I thought it was another group race, so I showed up at his house at 6:30 in the morning, and it was just him. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this isn’t a group, it’s a date.’ he recalls. “After that, we started dating pretty quickly because we were all the time after that. So as the running club grew, so did our relationship.”

Eight months later, Justin proposed.

Their romance was the first of many at VRC to the point where the club has gained quite a reputation. “One of the funnest things for me is seeing how naturally people find the relationships in the club,” says Erin. “At first it was shocking, and then it became so common that people come now and almost expect to meet someone.”

In fact, it has become part of the club’s culture. At each meeting, there is an introduction to the new members, where they line up and tell a fun fact about themselves. “The first few months it was something like ‘What’s your favorite ice cream?’ But one time, a group of guys joined, and one of the girls wanted us to ask them if they were single. So now, that’s become our thing. To this day, everyone who’s new has to say yes they are or they are not. they are single,” explains Erin.

While they may be famous in runner matchmaking, VRC isn’t the only runner’s club that breeds romance. Similar to the Shields story, Megan Ono joined the Los Angeles Social Hour Run Club in 2018 after seeing her friend Donovan post about it on social media. “We were friends from college and he was the founder of the running club,” she tells PS. “Two years later, in 2020, after sharing many miles as friends, we started dating. And now we’re engaged!”

“I never expected to find love from this club, but I’m very happy.”

Carla Jean Hardy says her life also completely changed after joining the DC Pynk Run Club (a club for lesbian, queer women, and trans and non-binary runners in the nation’s capital). “I met this girl over the summer and was instantly attracted to her, even though I wasn’t necessarily looking to date,” Hardy tells PS. “But at every running club we’d run together and chat, and by the fall I knew I was in love with her. In October, she invited me to a party at her house and we kissed on the roof, bonding friends.. . gap between lovers.”

The two officially started dating in January 2024. “I never expected to find love from this club, but I’m so happy and she’s just the best,” says Hardy.

Meanwhile, Hardy’s roommate Audrey McCabe had her own crush on the club. Hardy and McCabe would report on their love lives at home.

McCabe says he “joined the club to make friends and build a queer community.” Then, “about six months later, a really cute girl named Megan joined and we hit it off almost immediately. We were the first people in the club to start dating, so we tried to keep it a secret at first, but that lasted about two weeks. We’ve been together for about three and a half months now.”

so . . What about run club romance? In fact, making a connection in this environment makes a lot of sense, because “you meet people who share your interests and have a similar healthy lifestyle,” says Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a clinical psychologist.

It also overlooks some of the superficiality of dating apps, according to Erin Shields. As she says, “You can’t really worry about the superficial stuff when you’re running around. You’re going to be sweating, you’re going to look like a mess, and sometimes you won’t be able to breathe. So this environment already creates a really real community.”

Also, studies show that it’s easier to make connections and bond when we’re doing an activity together, adds Dr. Carmichael. “This is likely because it removes the momentary pressure to constantly talk or assess whether the other person is worth your time,” he says. “And in a running club you get to see how the person is with the others in the group, and their general attitude towards goals and commitments without it feeling personalized to yourself.”

Meeting up for a run is also a refreshing alternative to meeting someone in a booze-fueled environment, which tends to be the default option, says Shields: “This is a great, healthy, very active way to socialize.”

Dr. Carmichael agrees, noting that logging miles together gives you a chance to have a shared physiological experience, your brain is flooding with endorphins, and you’re getting a natural boost. “In this environment, you have a greater sense of pleasure and relaxation together through a shared experience.” (She compares it to watching a scary movie on a date, which is known to increase arousal.)

And perhaps most importantly, running clubs are likely to attract people who have compatible principles. “People who run tend to have a certain awareness, self-discipline and interest in seeing things,” explains Dr. Carmichael. “You also prioritize your health and are willing to make momentary sacrifices to help achieve long-term goals that are important for partners to share.”

If you like the idea of ​​meeting the love of your life at an active club, but have never put on a pair of running shoes, don’t worry. “Just go, don’t panic or be nervous,” says Shields. “You can even walk or hang out.”

And just as finding the right sneakers can take some trial and error, try not to put too much pressure on locking down a lover right away. Trust the process and keep an open mind that your perfect match may surprise you.

Kristine Thomason is a lifestyle writer and editor based in Southern California. She was the director of health and fitness at MindBodyGreen and fitness and wellness editor at Women’s Health. Kristine’s work has also appeared in POPSUGAR, Travel + Leisure, Men’s Health, Health, and Refinery29, among others.

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