Last Updated on November 1, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times: running changes lives. It changed mine. If you are reading this, chances are running changed your life too. For those of us in love with the sport, running has given us so many gifts, both physical and emotional, that they are almost too lengthy to list.
But what have you given back to running?
If you answered “gee, Heather, I didn’t really know I could give back to running!”… then read on. There are a number of ways you can help the running community we all know and love continue to grow and flourish, and most of them are really simple to do. Here’s a quick list of 8 ways you can give back to the running community, starting today.
Support a Newbie
One of the best ways you can give back to the running community is by encouraging new runners to fall in love with the sport. I’ve been around (and around, and around) the proverbial running block for over a decade now. While I’ve met a phenomenal number of supportive, welcoming people…I’ve also realized that running can be very cliquey and intimidating.
Picture this: a new runner shows up to their very first group run. They are met with smiling, friendly faces and welcoming comments from the “regulars”. The new person is given vague directions of where the group run goes and then…everyone takes off. New person is often left in the dust, unsure of where they are going, and suddenly not feeling so welcome anymore. So they never return.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard of this happening.
If a new person shows up to a group run, consider foregoing your training plans for that day, and run with them instead. Sure, you may miss the specifics of a planned workout…but the simple gesture of spending a few miles with a new runner will pay off in far greater dividends than hitting your mile splits.
Volunteer at a Race
We all love racing. We love running closed courses, aid stations, the crowds, the music, the medals…you name it. But races take a hell of a lot of work to put together, and race directors can’t do it without the help of volunteers.
Volunteer jobs can be messy and exhausting (always be sure to thank the volunteers!), but volunteer duties don’t necessarily have to knock you out of participating in the race as a runner. There are often opportunities to help out with course marking, packet stuffing, registration, and more, allowing you time to still run the race. Further, you may even earn some perks…like a discounted future race entry!
Support Local Races
Speaking of races, consider supporting local races. Sure, they aren’t always as flashy as some of the Nationwide race series, maybe the “swag” isn’t as awesome, and there aren’t huge name brands backing up the race as sponsors. But local races almost always support either a local charitable cause, and are put on by a local race director (or directors) who truly has a love for the running community. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a number of race directors, and can assure you that they have tackled the arduous duty of race directing simply for the love of the sport. In fact, most have full time jobs outside of race directing. They aren’t in it for the money, but supporting them ensures that they can continue to put on quality events (and break even!) for the enjoyment of runners for years to come.
While we are on the topic of supporting local…
Support Locally Owned Running Stores
Consider shopping at a locally owned independent running shop. The reasons to shop at locally owned shops in general are endless, from reducing environmental impact, to creating more jobs, to investing in yourself. Studies show that money spent locally is more likely to stay local, and be spent again within the community, helping to foster the growth and economic stability of your local community. And of course, choosing to spend your money at a local running specialty will help grow and foster the local running community as well. Need more reasons to shop at your local running store? Check out this post (click here)
Volunteer for Trail Maintenance
Those gorgeous, well groomed, well maintained trails you love to run on? They don’t get that way by themselves. At least not here in Myrtle Beach.
Trail maintenance consists of everything from trimming branches, grass, and other vegetation that encroaches on the trail, to cutting up and removing fallen trees, cleaning up garbage, fixing washouts, and so much more. In most places, this never ending job is done solely by volunteers, and I’m certain they would appreciate an extra set of hands. So reach out to your local trail coordinator, then grab your gardening gloves and hedge trimmers, and get to work!
Join your Local Running Club
Running clubs often do so much more than simply organize group runs. Many running clubs are non profit organizations that help bring the love for running into your local community in a number of ways. Running clubs often help bring awareness to the sport of running through community involvement, providing support for local and national races, and leading “learn to run” events or training programs. Running clubs often organize fundraisers for local charities, and even provide scholarships for young runners. Like many things, however, running clubs are often organized an executed by volunteers.
The simplest thing you can do to help your local running club is to join as a member and pay your yearly dues. If you are looking to do more, you can often find hands on volunteer opportunities, or even step up and volunteer to hold a position on the board of directors!
Help the Next Generation of Runners
Share your love of running with the next generation of little runners. Volunteer to be a coach or a mentor for a youth running program, such as Girls on the Run, Kids Run the Nation, or another local school or recreation group. Or simply share your love for running with the little ones in your life already, by encouraging them to join you for a run, or cheering them on in a run of their own.
Support Those Doing Kickass Things in the Running World
Do you have a friend that’s a running coach? How about a cousin that is fundraising for an important cause using marathon training as her platform and motivation? Do you know someone who is trying to make that leap from “average joe” to elite athlete? How about an engineer friend who has designed a new product for endurance athletes? What about that blogger who helps her family pay bills by writing about running?
Support them. Encourage them. Recommend them to others. Donate to their charities. Share their writing. These are the people working tirelessly behind the scenes to help the running community grow! Your support, whether financial or emotional, allows them to keep doing what they are doing.
How do you give back to the running community? Let us know by sharing in a comment below!