Going LocalIn a continuing collaboration with Scott over at Straight to the Bar, we will be writing about some things that you might be able to do locally throughout the month of April. This week, I’d like to answer a question from Lisa about how to find a local running club. She asked:

Question MarkI am looking for a running group in my area. I live in Mesa, Arizona and my zipcode is 85207. If you have any information about this matter please advise.

Thank you.

The difficulty in finding people to run with in your area can vary dramatically based on where you live and at what speed you like to run. Some areas are full of fitness minded people who just like to go out and get a jog in, whereas in other areas you will get nothing but strange looks and comments (or worse) as you run by people. Even in an area where people do run, it can be difficult to find ones who train at the same pace as you.

Types of Running Groups

There are a few steps that you can take to find people in your area to run with. The first thing that you need to do is to decide what type of people you are going to look for. There are 3 basic groups of people that you might find that you can run with, and note that these groups are not mutually exclusive:

  1. Running Partners: These are semi-random people that you get together with to go out for a run. For example, getting together with a friend or a neighbor would constitute finding a running partner.
  2. Running Clubs: These are groups of people who get together to train and (usually) to socialize. They may be led by a coach who will help you get into shape safely, or it may just be a group of running partners that just kept getting larger and decided to become more formal and regular of a group. Clubs may or may not have dues, may or may not have a formal structure or charter, and may or may not compete in local races together.
  3. Running Teams: These are similar to clubs, except that they tend to be much more competitive and may or may not involve coaching or training together. Most running teams compete in some sort of league or division and require that you pay dues and/or meet some set of criteria in order to join. For example, most colleges have cross country and track teams that compete in the NCAA, and many communities will have teams that compete in local USATF racing series.

So what is the best way to find running partners, clubs or teams that are in your area?

Local Races

The absolute easiest and most effective way to find people to run with is to go to a local race. There are a few different ways to find people to run with when you are at a local race, which is why most people will have the most luck this way.

  • See who is running nearby. When you actually run the race, look around at the people around you. If they are racing near you, then they probably train at your pace and might make for a good candidate as a running partner. Strike up a conversation and see if there is anybody that lives nearby. You may even recognize a neighbor or friend that you didn’t realize ran.
  • Look at people’s running clothes. Almost all teams and many clubs provide racing singlets or t-shirts to their members so that people can tell what team or club they belong to while they are racing. These groups of people may not race near one another depending upon their individual talents and where they are in their training, but they will usually congregate near one another before and after the race and are very obvious.
  • Look at the registration forms. Many races will have a table with registration forms for other area races, and nearly all races will have a registration form for their own race. Take a look at these forms to see who sponsors them and who puts them on. It is not uncommon for a local running club to manage a lot of the local races. There may even be advertisements for local clubs mixed in with all of the race registration forms.
  • Talk to everybody. Not only runners, but volunteers, spectators and race organizers may know of local running clubs or training groups that you could join. Make small talk with everybody you come in contact with and ask them about it. Most people at a small race are pretty friendly and willing to help out, at least in my experience.

Shoe Stores

Is there a specialty running store in your area? If so, that will probably be the second best place to find out about local clubs in your area. A specialty running store will almost always be owned by somebody that is involved in the local running community and will likely be runners themselves. Very often, the staff will be very knowledgeable and passionate about the local running scene as well. It is also not uncommon for the customers in specialty running stores to be a wealth of knowledge about the area. Again, it is well worth just heading in and chatting with everybody you meet inside.

Some local running stores may even offer training groups, coaching or just a place to meet for local clubs. Take a look at any bulletin boards for flyers and business cards.


Whenever possible, I try to find people to run with in person. Another option is to search online. Here are a few websites that are worth searching:

  • RRCA Club Listings: The Road Runners Club of America allows you to search for clubs registered with them by state or by keyword. This is a “safe” option for finding a local club because the club will have had to register itself with the RRCA, pay its annual dues, and uphold a basic set of rules in order to remain a club in good standing.
  • USATF Member Associations: USA Track & Field is the governing body of amateur and professional running in the United States. They are another good resource for finding local running clubs. If you are looking for a competitive team, you may find one with the RRCA but will probably have more luck by searching through the USATF listings.
  • Google: Google is one of the best search engines on the internet right now, and a simple query such as “running club in city, state” (replacing city and state with where you live obviously) will return the websites of local running clubs. Your success may vary using this method, and you also have the added danger that the team or club website that you find is not appropriate or safe to join. You may find a great group of people to run with this way, but you will need to be a little more careful than you would by going through the RRCA or USATF websites.
  • Cool Running: I put this site after Google because I do not know how well maintained this website will be now that they have been bought by Active. Cool Running maintains a list of running clubs organized by state, and also maintains lists of clubs outside of the United States.
  • RRCA Coach Listings: The RRCA maintains a list of certified coaches that you can search on as well as a list of registered clubs. You may not directly find a running club or team by searching the list of coaches, but if you do not find anything local under the club search then it is worth seeing if there is a local running coach. Chances are good that an RRCA certified coach will be a part of a local running group or will at least know of any that are nearby.
  • Running Ahead User Groups: Running Ahead is my training log software of choice, and it has an excellent user community attached to it through the forums. You can find regional groups and running clubs through here. Searching can be a little painstaking, but its well worth it if your area has an active group. I find that the conversations in the groups are often better than in the general forums. (Hat Tip: Perry)

If you live in the United States, then I highly recommend using one the RRCA or USATF websites. These are the sites that I have used to good effect in the past when I have moved into a new area, but if you know of any other good ones then feel free to leave a comment below and I will add it to the list. I don’t have much experience searching for clubs outside of the United States, so definitely leave a comment if you know of any good websites to search in other countries.

Gyms, Health Clinics, and Fighting Clubs

Another option for finding running partners or clubs is to check your local fitness center, gym or health clinic. Associations such as the YMCA may also be a good resource if you haven’t had any luck with the previous methods. I have not had much luck finding running partners through the gyms that I have belonged to, but I have seen some that advertise running programs and it isn’t uncommon for me to meet runners that I already know working out at the same time as me.

Another option is to find a local fighting club and speak with a coach or some of the fighters before their workout. Combat athletes have a tendency to run a lot to keep in shape, and the club should be more than willing to help pair you up with a fighter to run with even if you are not a member because that helps the club just as much as it helps you. The types of people that are attracted to competing in combat also tends to be the type of person who is more committed, punctual, and enthusiastic, so they make for great running partners. (Hat Tip: Fight Geek)

Your Neighborhood

The last option is to just keep an eye out your window or to keep your head up while you are running in your own neighborhood. You may see somebody run by at about your pace that is worth meeting. I will admit that I have rarely found people that live nearby that train at the same pace as I do, but I am always open to meeting new people on a run and I have a good idea of who runs by my house on a regular basis.

You also never know who you might meet. I met my wife by running by her at a local park while she was stretching on a park bench and I was jig jogging in between repeats. We may not run at anywhere near the same pace, and we may not train next to each other regularly, but we certainly enjoy running together now and again.

Reader Suggestions

So what are your favorite methods for finding people to run with? Is there anything glaringly obvious that I’ve left off of the list that you feel should be there? Let me know in the comments so that I can add them to the list.