People Are Finding Love in Running Clubs

Advice

Finding a partner via the quintessential meet-cute might seem like a thing of fiction. In a world where dating apps are now the default, it can feel like serendipitous meetings IRL are relegated to rom-coms or sappy novels. That is, apparently, unless you join a run club.

For the uninitiated, a running club is a community group where people meet up to run together. Sometimes that means jogging a 5K, trudging through a 20-mile run, or even speeding through laps on a track. While running-centric meetup groups have been a thing for decades, they’ve seen a spike in popularity in the last couple of years, particularly post-pandemic. Some people go to run clubs to build healthier habits, others are training for a specific race, and many people are seeking a like-minded community. And — while it’s not necessarily the main motivator for joining — people are increasingly finding their person in them, too.

Just take a few swipes through LA’s Venice Run Club (VRC) feed on TikTok for proof. You’ll find ample love stories that came about while logging miles, including Joe and Myrene, who met during one of the club’s track workouts. Their first date was (fittingly) a long run, followed by a yoga class then Sweetgreen salads, and the rest is history.

“[A]s the run club grew, our relationship grew.”

And they’re not the only ones finding love in the run club — in fact, it’s how Justin Shields, the founder of VRC, met his wife, Erin Shields. “I’d heard about the club from my coworker who went to college with Justin,” Erin tells PS. She showed up at the club’s second run ever, in August 2020, when there were only about five members (for context, VRC now draws more than 1,000 runners weekly).

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

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

Eight months later, Justin proposed.

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

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

While they may be renowned in runner matchmaking, VRC isn’t the only run club sparking romance. Similar to the Shieldses’ story, Megan Ono joined Social Hour Run Club in Los Angeles 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 run club,” she tells PS. “Two years later in 2020, after sharing lots of miles as friends, we started dating. And now we are engaged!”

“I never expected to find love from this club, but I am so happy.”

Carla Jean Hardy says her life also completely changed after joining DC Pynk Run Club (a club for lesbians, queer women, and trans and nonbinary runners in the nation’s capital). “I met this girl in the summer and was immediately drawn to her, even though I was not necessarily looking to date,” Hardy tells PS. “But at every run club, we would run together and chat, and by the fall I knew I had a crush on her. In October, she invited me to a party at her house and we kissed on her rooftop, bridging the friends-to-lovers gap.”

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

Meanwhile, Hardy’s roommate, Audrey McCabe, had her own run club crush. Hardy and McCabe would debrief about their run club love lives at home.

McCabe says she “joined the club to make friends and build queer community.” Then, “about six months into it, a very cute girl named Megan joined and we hit it off pretty much immediately. We were the first people in the club to start dating, so we tried to keep it under wraps at first, but that lasted about two weeks. Now we’ve been together for about three-and-a-half months.”

So . . . what’s the deal with run club romance? Actually, making a connection in this setting makes a lot of sense, because “you’re meeting up with people who share your interests and have a similar healthy lifestyle,” says Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a clinical psychologist.

It also bypasses some of the superficiality of dating apps, according to Erin Shields. As she puts it, “You really can’t care about superficial things when you’re all running. You’re going to be sweating, you’re going to look like a mess, and sometimes you’re not going to be able to breathe. So that setting already creates a really down-to-earth community.”

Plus, studies show it’s easier to form connections and bonds when we are doing an activity together, Dr. Carmichael adds. “This is likely because it takes away the momentary pressure to make small talk or be constantly evaluating if the other person is ‘worth your time,'” she says. “And in a running club you get to observe how the person is with others in the group, and their general attitude towards goals and commitments — without having it feel personalized to yourself.”

Getting together to run is also a refreshing alternative to meeting someone in a drink-fueled setting, which tends to be the default, according to Shields: “This is a great, healthy, and very active way to socialize instead.”

Dr. Carmichael agrees, noting that logging miles together gives you the opportunity to have a shared physiological experience — your brain is getting flooded with endorphins and you’re getting a natural high. “In this setting, you have a heightened sense of pleasure and relaxation together — all through a shared experience.” (She compares it to seeing a scary movie on a date, which is known to spike arousal.)

And perhaps most importantly, running clubs are likely to attract individuals who have compatible principles. “People who do run tend to have a certain amount of conscientiousness, self-discipline, and an interest in seeing things through,” Dr. Carmichael explains. “You also both prioritize your health and are willing to make momentary sacrifices to help reach long-term goals — that’s an important thing for partners to share.”

If you like the idea of meeting the love of your life in an active club, but you’ve never laced up a pair of running shoes, don’t worry. “Just go — don’t be scared or nervous,” Shields says. “You can even just walk or hang out.”

And just like finding the right running sneakers can take a bit of trial and error, try not to put too much pressure on locking in a lover immediately. Trust the process and keep an open mind — your perfect pair may surprise you.


Kristine Thomason is a lifestyle writer and editor based in Southern California. She was the health and fitness director at MindBodyGreen and the 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.


Image Source: Getty / HalimLotos WIN-Initiative Neleman

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