Rekindling Through Running Club

Graphic by Grace Tawatao/Graphics Center

USF’s Running Club hosted its first-ever fun run on Feb. 17. Despite the pouring rain, more than 100 USF students and faculty showed up Saturday morning to run 2.5 miles at Peacock Meadow in Golden Gate Park. Running Club officers set up tents, distributed bibs, and put up the start/finish line. Running Club describes itself as “a space for all athletes to build their self-confidence and find a safe, welcoming community centered around a healthy lifestyle.” Accordingly, the runners represented at the race ranged from students who had never run before to seasoned former track and cross country athletes. 

The warmth of Running Club’s team spirit reminded me of the family I found through being part of distance track and cross country in high school. For students looking to reconnect with running culture in college, joining is a perfect opportunity.

Running Club started as a vision when USF students Hadley Dixon, Max Amend, and Abby Enney met at a race last year. The three bonded over their shared pasts as cross country and track athletes from Catholic high schools in the same part of San Jose, Calif. Amend had the idea to start the run club. It clicked, and the trio registered as co-founders with Student Leadership & Engagement (SLE) shortly after.

Getting the club up and running was a feat. Although San Francisco is a hub for running culture in its own right, the zest for competition pales in comparison to Eugene, Oreg., the track capital of the world with a storied run club culture that Running Club sought to emulate.

The club set fixed times for daily runs at 8 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. Saturdays, with 5 p.m. practice added later on for Tuesdays and Thursdays. The goal is for Running Club to become competitive enough to join the National Intercollegiate Running Club Association (NIRCA) and race against Pacific schools like the University of Oregon, California Polytechnic State University, and Stanford. 

Running Club is already on track to this broader horizon. Within a year, the club gained 280 registered members, though maintaining consistent engagement has proven to be a struggle due to schedule conflicts and runner retention. But for dedicated athletes, the structure keeps its appeal. As John Lindroos, a now-board member who has run cross country and track since third grade, said, “I joined Running Club because I saw it as an opportunity to continue my running career, but also to meet other runners at my school. I ran my first semester here by myself, and I was a little disappointed that there was no run club. But then Running Club was created mid-semester and I got really excited when I saw the promo for it. I signed up for it right away.”

Promotion via social media has been a major contributor to Running Club’s growth, with social media strategy being how the club was able to attract so many participants for its first fun run. Enney came up with a social media marketing plan to highlight run club members’ personalities through Instagram reels in promotion of the event. It focused more on visibility than registration but ultimately engaged both, evidenced by the successful turnout.

In addition to Instagram-driven turnout, the event had a number of corporate sponsors. After ideating the event in August, Enney contacted corporations such as Noah’s Bagels, Trader Joe’s, Sports Basement, and A Runner’s Mind. 

Dixon managed internal communications with USF organizations. Via a donation appeal, she fundraised the necessary $2,500 to make the event free for USF students without collecting club dues. 

Running Club’s fun run, which just won SLE’s 2023-2024 Event of the Year, is only the first of many. In the future, the club intends to host more casual races throughout the semester.

Graduating today, Dixon is passing her baton. She feels optimism about this transition. “I found a home in Running Club. Your age, your grade, your experience level, none of that becomes important when you show up to practice,” she said. “It becomes about setting goals for yourself, whether that’s to get more active, to break a personal record, to run your first half marathon… and have a fun time doing it. The people I have met through Running Club are the reason why I love USF, and I am certain that after graduation, the club is in great hands.”

It’s an inspiring message deeply felt by the USF running community, which continues to grow.  

Every morning that I can make practice brings back a rush of old feelings I didn’t know I could reclaim. There is something distinctly life-giving about running in a group that is different from jogging alone. Running is — like most things in life — best enjoyed together. And that is why, as a new member, I’m cheering Running Club on. I’m excited for its NIRCA competition dreams to come true, and for the many long runs with friends that my next few semesters here hold.

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Scene Editor: Inés Ventura

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