Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How to Start a Running Group at Work

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have definitely seen an improvement to my pace since the creation of a running group here at my company.  I typically have been a solo runner during lunch at work seeing many of those now who are part of the group.  In fact it took one year and one really good product manager to get all of us together for a weekly run.  The run is now well supported with all different ages and levels which break up into a couple of subgroups of 4 or 5 so that you can push yourself out of your comfort zone or stay at a more comfortable pace.

There are some new runners to the group also who are now running just because of the support of the other runners.  And we also have runners who still run solo (due to the limit of their lunch time) but run the same course since they can see the group coming and going.

You may already know a lot of the runners at your company, may even see them at lunch or before or after work in their routine.  You may even talk with them at the coffee counter about the run you just had, what is a great route, what areas to avoid, etc.  But that is all of the interaction you have with them.

So the question is, how do you set up a running group at your company?

What we did at my current company is took advantage of creating a company subscription distribution list.  We call ours “Move.”  Basically, we were allowed to send out an announcement on another distribution list, “fun”, to alert that we would be creating a running group.  Anyone wanting to join was to send an e-mail to our group organizer who then compiled and created the email which included 45 people on the distribution list. Our group running day is on Wednesday, so there is an announcement on Tuesday reminding everyone of the group run.  Typically these are fun and quirky emails but they add to the culture of the group.  Typically we then have 10 show up any given week out of a company of 150.

It is also to have at least a couple of champions in the group, especially if they are across different departments.  That was part of the reason we didn’t run as a group before.  I am in Finance, others in Editorial and Product Development, and don’t forget IT.  Having “plants” in each of these groups talking up the running group on Wednesday as well as making sure everyone knows that everyone is welcome has really helped. 

Besides a distribution list, if your company allows, you could set up a SharePoint site.  At a previous company, group sites were a heavily encouraged activity and were considered important to the culture of the organization.  Work-life-balance was stressed and any type of fitness activity was encouraged.  The purpose was not just a touchy feely thing, but a way to better get control of the health insurance costs of the company.

The SharePoint site is especially great if you are a large company and you want to set up a meeting point for all runners.  It is also great for those who are training for a race of a specific distance or pace.  But again, you want to have those across the company endorsing and “talking up” your group.

There are certain things can be done to have a successful group.  

First, be flexible and adaptable with the ability of the members.  Not everyone can run a 6 minute or perhaps even a 9 minute sustained pace for any duration.  So there should be an understanding that it is ok to drop into subgroups or it is OK to take off at any point of the run if the pace is too fast or too slow.  This is a group activity and not a competition, so egos and titles should be left back in the office.  

Second, as stated above, talk up the group.  Word of mouth is an important factor in the success of your group.  If people know your group as being fun and enjoyable, more people will join and providing other opportunities during the week.

Also, think about the route.  Working near the waterfront in San Francisco we have the benefit of being right on the Embarcadero, a long wide sidewalk without any intersections.  It is easy to run unhindered for at least 15 miles.  That said, a shorter run, maybe 4 or 5 miles will allow for about a 35 to 45 minute run to allow for changing if you have an hour lunch.  We also mix up the route, sometimes running towards Fisherman’s Wharf and the Marina, sometimes to AT&T Park, sometimes throwing in the piers.  Keeping the route ever changing will help keep boredom at bay.

Finally, one of the biggest issues for some about running at work, less joining your running group, is the lack of showers.  The short answer is showers are overrated…. really. But to get them past that thought, you might do your research on alternatives.  You can check out my post on Running with No Showers at work and my review of shower wipes as one solution.

So that’s about it.  Starting a running group at work is pretty simple if you apply just a little ingenuity.  However, you will definitely find rewards, both with your running but also with building a running culture at work.


  1. One suggestion for showers - join Planet Fitness. Only $15 per month (sometimes $10 with a special deal). You have to bring your own towel, but for $15 clams that's not that big of a deal. Plus you can do treadmills and that other nonsense if you don't feel like going for a run.

  2. John, that's a great suggestion. We have one about a 15 minute walk from here, which cuts into the running time; however, I have several friends near that location that take advantage of their showers for their lunchtime rune.


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