"I want to start a run group. What do I need to do?"
Was I surprised? Sal's question was identical to one Suzanne brought up during the dark, drippy and miserable days right after the new year. For Suzanne things don't change all that much based on the weather. On the other hand; I start to ask the second question of the existentialist dilemma, once I get through the 'solitary person, placed into a world seemingly without meaning' realization...and the 'I exist here, doggone it' announcement.
So Sal's question was my reminder. I sat back, took a sip of my beer and asked myself, as I told him, "I can help you figure this out." The second question of the existentialist dilemma, by the way, is asked, often internally, when a person figuratively finds themselves hip-deep in a murky body of water with a hand pump. And an overabundance of large, green reptiles. And the original plan to drain water from said body.
The nice thing was that we weren't treading an overgrown pathway. There's at least 2400 clubs (affiliated with the Road Runners' Club of America (RRCA)) which started out as a twinkle in the eyes of one or two runners. I'm sure the vision of a bartender and a couple of runners probably isn't far from the norm, either. Especially in my town, where at least a half-dozen establishments have affiliated run nights. Nothing brings runners together like a few miles and a few beers.
So, if you were thinking about starting a run group from the running surface up, what might be the most important 'got to have' factors? Naturally, this is not a one-size meets all needs assessment; for those of us in parts of the country where the seasons are "'hot,' 'really hot,' 'humid and hot,' and 'holidays'" we're actually blessed with the lack of a "plan B." We can run, adjusting for sunrise and sunset on occasion, year-round.
And if you're a smart guy you can drop all of the little details into the classic "what's in it for me" category.
Take a good course or courses, as a start. There are clubs with which I've run whose run courses traverse the heart of the downtown business district. Not such a bad thing if you're one of the drinking establishments the runners pass by each week. Then again, this might be a mixed blessing; having the potential for hot, sweaty runners barreling through the area where your business' tables and seating happen to be. And impacting your servers. Busy intersections - word to the wise would be to follow all relevant traffic rules and signals. But if I had a dollar for every time I've seen someone streak across the street and barely miss being a hood ornament...I could probably buy a few nice things.
Not every person wants to run the same course week in and week out. Well, some do because they want to know how they're progressing or regressing over time. A blend of relatively runner-safe courses is a good draw.
While I'm on the topic of "runner-safe," the rhetorical question often expressed by the RRCA's executive director, Jean Knaack has stuck in the back of my mind, 'are you willing to lose your house based upon this particular decision?' I love runners; I trust many of them, I don't trust motor vehicle operators, owners of large, aggressively-nurtured dogs, or lawyers. So, keeping courses as residential as possible, and minimizing the number of places where traffic flow and runner flow may potentially intersect without signs and lights is a good idea. Paperwork, both of the list of persons running, and their agreement to abide by some common sense guides, minimizes the chance of the tail-end of my "don't trust list" coming to play.
How about insurance which covers those activities?
Not too many chop houses want to put their livelihood on the line because Joe Dailyjogger stumbled and broke his nose while dodging Timmy Bagohammers' "Fast and the Furious" re-enactment, too. So RRCA clubs can avail themselves of inexpensive insurance, with the understanding they'll operate as a non-profit and abide by the Safe Running Guidelines. Get dinged at a recognized event, or while volunteering, and the insurance should take care of you, a'la a certain duck. Which is just as good as money.
Other "WIIFM" details include recognition for number of runs attended, or miles run, or longevity. Some places will provide light food and beverage specials for the benefit of the runners, too. I've seen shirts as recognition for club membership or fidelity...not much else.
Is there anything you as a runner, or your club if you belong to one, does which meets that "what's in it for me" to draw in runners? I'd love to know.