It's Not a Moment, It's a Movement

We are failing our communities. 


On July 19th, 2023, I attended my first-ever group run, hosted by a local running store in Asheville, NC, and was completely shocked by what I experienced. 


Not only was I the last person to finish, but I got lost, and no one was with me. By the time I got back, everyone was leaving from the brewery and my intention of meeting people within the sport I had learned to love was gone. 


Now for context, at this point, I had run my first half and full marathon just four months prior and was training for my second marathon that October. I was a runner. I did not have to “prove” that to anyone. The only difference between my first and second marathons was my pace. When I started running, I thought you had to run a 9-minute mile or faster to be deemed a runner. Wrong. So I took the pressure off myself and knew I needed a different approach if I wanted to keep running for the long haul. 


So I slowed down. And I mean s l o w e d  d o w n. 


That said, I was a little worried about going into the group run initially, but after doing a quick Google search, they claimed: “For all paces and all levels. Walkers and furry friends welcome.”


I thought to myself, “Great! I am going to meet some new running friends AND support a local business in the process.”


However, my pace was not good enough, despite the group being for all.


Unfortunately, I am not the only one that has experienced this.


Since this group run, I decided to create my own community. If I couldn’t find it through my local running store, I would take matters into my own hands, which led me to social media of all places. And since August 6, 2023, I have grown a community of over 40,000 individuals on TikTok, Instagram, Strava, and in Asheville called The Realistic Runner(s). 


I don’t say this to gloat, I say this to draw attention to the fact that the running community is changing, along with many other communities. Many people, like myself, are creating their own communities because of shared experiences. Individuals went to their local retailers, the experts, in hopes of finding community and support, but didn’t. 


The definition of what a runner, rider, etc. is and can be, is changing and my story of showing up to group runs and getting left behind is shared by thousands of other individuals. 


Now let me paint a picture for you. Imagine someone new comes to your store group run, ride, etc. They have finally worked up the courage to join and feel confident in their abilities after a few weeks or months of consistent movement. Not knowing what to expect, they end up getting left behind with no one to talk to. They roll in at the very end, missing closing announcements, meaningful conversation, and leave feeling unfulfilled and with no community. 


Not only did you lose a customer, but you also lost a community member. 


And it all leads back to the desire for community. 


Yes, customers are important, otherwise, our businesses wouldn’t survive. However, many of us, entered into these spaces to be around others who participate and love these activities as much as we do. That’s community. 


So how do we change the mindset and approach? How do we become more community-focused instead of customer-focused? 


Because when we pour into and build up our communities, the customers will come. But it starts with reassessing our beliefs and redefining what it means to be a part of these communities. Anyone can participate, and many people want to participate, so we have to make these entry-level spaces truly accessible to everyone. 


As Tobin Heath, the 2x World Cup Champion stated at Strava’s annual event, Camp Strava, this past week, “It’s not a moment, it’s a movement.”


What part of the movement do you want to participate in?


If you are interested in learning more about The Realistic Runner community, email Makenzie Rink at [email protected]

I also highly encourage you to watch this video and read the comment section to better understand others' experiences, but also the disparities still present within the group run and group ride spaces.


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