What in the World is Run 4 Joy?

mslaRun 4 Joy is an idea rooted in my personal history as a slow runner looking for buddies. It comes with a desire to throw doors and arms open to welcome runners at any pace. While recognizing that a face-to-face community is hard to replicate, I want to offer this online environment to all types of runners everywhere. I want Run 4 Joy to be a virtual clubhouse for the Back of the Pack.

It is starting as a blog, a website, and an optional Facebook group.

I want the blog to be inspiring. I want to use it for stories and insights from my experiences and those of others. I want it to explore subjects and perspectives that come with a view from the back. The blog will also provide a forum for members to comment on topics of personal interest.

The website will grow step by step into a repository of useful information, including:

  • a library of recommended resources (books, articles, videos, and web links);
  • a database of recommended running events that are designed to welcome and support the Back of the Pack;
  • profiles and interviews with heroes and role models;
  • your own stories, insights, and experiences;
  • frequently asked questions and answers;
  • tips for making running clubs and races more BOP-friendly;
  • and more (please join and help us figure out its full potential).

The Facebook group (Run 4 Joy Network) is intended for those who enjoy social media. It will be a place for informal conversations and support among members.

Run 4 Joy is a bright idea with good intentions. Please join now and help it come to life.

Lost and Found: It Began with the BOP

finishWhen I started walking, then running as part of a weight-loss program, I was on my own. I ran around the neighborhood in the dark before work. I trained alone for three marathons, following instructions copied from a library book. With a busy career and family life, I enjoyed having some time by myself. I never considered joining a group or taking a class in those early years. Then I moved across the country with a job change and decided to give it a try.

Upon arrival in northern Virginia, Google helped me find a running club that hosted weekend long runs in my new hometown. I was eager to learn the local trail system and to pick up tips for dealing with heat and humidity, so I signed on and showed up.

That early experience was a mixed bag. I enjoyed the people when I met them at the bagel shop afterward, but rarely saw them on the trail. Shortly after starting the first run, I fell behind and got lost. The next time I coped by printing maps and finding my own way. Eventually I met other members with similar stories. We discussed starting a Back of the Pack group that would stick together at any pace, but before anything happened I moved across the country again.

socialIn Missoula, Montana I discovered a fitness paradise. Surrounded by mountains and riddled with trails, the geography is inviting and the university-town culture encourages a healthy outdoor lifestyle. I went back to running on my own, as the local road and track club website focused on competition. A few years later, I found a brochure that described what seemed to be a new club, Run Wild Missoula (RWM). Feeling cautious, I asked Google for more information. The search revealed RWM’s mission statement, which promised “to promote and support running and walking for people of all ages and abilities.” I saw with guarded optimism that its door might be open to people like me.

Still, the first time I attended a social run the deja vu of backsides disappearing into a Montana blizzard discouraged me. Disoriented in the dark, I reached the pizza place just as others were leaving. But this time I didn’t crawl back into my shell. Remembering Back of the Pack discussions from my former life, I stepped up and offered to help. RWM’s response was encouraging ; its leadership wanted to welcome slower members. It wanted to walk the talk (and run the run).

RWM’s Back of the Pack (BOP) group started in 2010. More than 200 people have since signed up for the mailing list and more than 400 belong to our Facebook group. In addition, RWM offers Jeff Galloway’s marathon/half marathon training classes. (Though not limited to slower runners, the Galloway run-walk-run approach enables many Boppers to achieve ambitious distance goals.) We have a BOP Bulletin and BOP socials. Club races are designed to be BOP- (and walker-) friendly. Cheerleaders stay until the very end of the Missoula Marathon, and food plans ensure that snacks last too. Social runs have shorter and longer routes with published maps. The BOP is a core component of our club; we feel welcome and valued and we give back as generous and reliable volunteers.

Solitary running has its own charm, and I still enjoy it some of the time. But over the years I have learned from ever-improving experience that it can be even more fun with friends. Although not a Run Wild Missoula program, Run4Joy has clearly grown out of my club’s inclusive and supportive culture. I am grateful and indebted. Over the years, we have heard from runners around the country and even from Australia and Canada. People have found us online and find us interesting. They appreciate knowing that somewhere they too might find a welcoming and inclusive community. Run 4 Joy responds and welcomes them to join.