Really enjoyed this article. It’s good to be reminded of the opportunities that are available to UK club runners, and not to take them for granted. As I know from my own experience, the single best thing you can do to get better at running is to join a club. And I say this as an introvert, who would have been perfectly happy to go it alone. I’ve learnt that there’s simply no substitute for running with people the same or better than you, and being made to keep up and to keep pushing on.
Even from a purely financial point of view, the benefits of club membership are considerable: an annual subscription costs less than a single entry to a Tough Mudder, or similar, and that typically gets you two to three training sessions a week and the chance to race at least twice a month.
It’s true that many UK running clubs are not making themselves sufficiently attractive to millennials, and that can be frustrating. I imagine the typical club will have plenty of over-40s, a handful of thirtysomethings, and one or two twentysomethings if they’re lucky. In part, this can be explained by the fact that in many cases the people in positions of authority in clubs are also of an age and an inclination to be wary of new ways of doing things. Hence some (not all) clubs’ half-hearted, or non-existent, attempts to engage with the local parkrunners, and a lack of an up to date online presence. But it’s worth bearing in mind that these same people are all volunteers, who spend a lot of time doing all the unglamorous and repetitive duties associated with running a club and organising races, for very little recognition or thanks.
There are fewer younger people willing to take on these roles (club chairs, membership secretaries, officials, marshals), mainly because of work and family commitments, hence the discrepancy between clubs’ ambitions to recruit younger athletes and their success at doing so. Which is a shame, as running clubs have so much to offer millennials, and vice versa. Yes: the vests could do with some updating, and so could the websites, but failing to join clubs, or failing to take an active role as members of clubs, means things won’t change, and the clubs’ ability to positively influence the future of running in the UK will diminish.