Road Runners Club of America

Empowering Everyone to Run!

Programs for Clubs

People often join a club to connect with other runs and build their running within a community. A running club should have a robust schedule of programs to entice members to join and stay involved. Running programs include beginning programs, organized group runs, training programs, social events and more. In this section you will find information about a variety of programs your organization can adopt.

Organized Group Runs

Most RRCA clubs host regular, organized group runs throughout the year. Group runs accomplish many goals for a club or training program; they bring people together, both seasoned and newer runners. They create a social atmosphere for the group that supports a runner’s training needs, and more. Organizing and leading a group run is an important responsibility. To help ensure your group runs are well organized and safe, the RRCA has issued the Guidelines for Leading a Group Run. These guidelines focus on leading a group that has 20 or more people, however most of the advice still applies for smaller group runs of 5 to 10 people. Review our Guidelines for Leading a Group Run.

Beginners Program

Running clubs all over the country have programs for beginning groups, both all-women and coed. Here are their tips for making a program successful and long lasting.

Stick to the basics

As any running coach knows, there is an infinite variety of ways to train runners. Even beginners may come to a running program with lots of information and many preconceived ideas and notions about fitness, health and running. Coaches should not try to teach beginners everything in 10 or 12 weeks. A program should include the following basic elements:
  • Aerobic Training

    Set up a walk/run program that starts with 20–30 minutes of walking or walking/jogging and works up to 20-30 minutes of jogging (with walking breaks for those who need them) over the course of 10–12 weeks. See sample training plans at the end of this section).

  • Warm-up/stretch and cool-down/stretch

    Although many runners don’t stretch before and after every run, it’s a good habit to establish with beginners. Include information on the importance of stretching and proper warm-up and cool-down.

  • Resistance training

    The coach should know about the importance of overall body conditioning and be able to suggest simple exercises for strengthening legs, back, abdominal muscles and upper body. These include crunches, pushups, lunges, leg lifts, etc.

  • Injury prevention

    The coach should encourage runners to “train, not strain” by taking rest days, backing off when they feel pain, icing and elevating sore muscles and joints, and seeing a sports medicine specialist for any pain that doesn’t go away.

  • Speed training

    Any program that works with runners past the beginner level should introduce runners to speed work—that is, running to get faster and more efficient.

Offer an all-women program

Women find an all-women class less intimidating and more relaxing and fun. But, most clubs should also have a class for men too.

Meet at a track or other confined space

This allows for the women to feel part of a group, utilize a space that is a standard distance. It is important to take the runners elsewhere so that they can feel comfortable running in places other than the track.

Have a goal at the end of the program

An ideal goal is a 5k race. You can organize your own race for the class participants or incorporate the program to end with a community run that is already in place. A goal gives beginners something to shoot for and makes them feel like “real” runners. Most programs are 10 weeks or 12 weeks, leading up to a short, manageable distance.

Find coaches with lots of enthusiasm

It’s important to have a coach or volunteer of the program be enthusiastic and motivational for the runners. They need motivation to continue their involvement. It’s also important to support the runners in their efforts and abilities. Some runners may advance faster than others and to encourage everyone at an appropriate level so as to not single people out or make them feel as though they are not trying. It is also important for a coach or volunteer to stay until the last runner leaves to make sure if anyone has questions they get answered.

Target beginners

This doesn’t mean men and women who have never runner before. A significant number of people already run 1–3 or 2–4 times a week. They aren’t beginners, but they still think they are too slow to run with anyone else or feel that they are still a novice in the sport. A beginning running program helps them find other runners just like them and increase their speed and distance. Make sure to work towards incorporating them into the running club to encourage them to continue running.

Advertise and promote in advance

Make up flyers for local sports stores, health clubs, gyms and schools. Advertise in the club newsletter, online, sports papers, local community paper, and magazines.

Offer informational handouts

Give runners written information to take home to read like the RRCA Runners Etiquette brochure

Have guest speakers

Ask local elite runners, sporting goods salespeople, podiatrists, chiropractors, nutritionists, massage therapists and others to address the group. They should donate their time for free, since the exposure benefits them as well.

Identify Goals

Work with your beginners to understand their goals or help them outline realistic goals. Any training program should be flexible. Beginners especially should be reminded that they do not have to follow a program to the letter in order to succeed and meet their goals. (Often, however beginners will gain great satisfaction and a sense of security from following a program exactly.) Life sometimes gets in the way of perfect adherence. In addition, as runners get to know their bodies they may find that a certain program is not designed to best meet their needs. That is fine-every runner is different.

Specified Training Programs

Training programs are different from regular group runs because the goal of the program is to train for a specific race or race distance such as a marathon training program. Training programs cater to runners of any level and are usually developed by experienced running coaches who are members of the club. The overall goal of these programs is injury-free training for a race. The programs often include social events and special clothing for program participants in addition to weekday and weekend group runs. Some training programs include race entry in the fee or guarantee race entry, but that is not required. Group training programs are not specifically personalized, but participants have access to the coach or coaches writing the training plan. The plans usually include different types of running, including speedwork, that focus on specificity for the event. A training program can be a great way to train for a race and recruit new members. Many training programs include a bus trip to a specific race.

Certified Coaches for Training Programs

One of the goals of the RRCA coaching certification program is to provide trained individuals to volunteer as coaches for running club training programs. Running clubs are encouraged to host a coaching certification in order to train volunteers to coach their training programs. Find more information about hosting an RRCA coaching certification for your program volunteers(link to programs coaching)

Youth Programs

The RRCA is a great resource for schools and clubs that host youth running programs. The RRCA can support youth Cross Country teams by providing a Cross Country club with nonprofit status and insurance for training runs and Cross Country meets. As budgets suffer and cuts are made to school based youth sports, parent run Cross Country teams that are members of the RRCA are gaining in popularity. The Kids Run the Nation Program is designed to be a turn-key youth running program that clubs can adopt to promote running to the next generation. Do you need a parent waiver in Spanish for your youth program?. All RRCA members clubs supporting youth running programs are required to adopt a criminal background check policy. View the sample policy that your club can adopt today. To help youth programs implement this guideline, the RRCA has partnered with TC logiQ, Inc. to provide an affordable background screening service. For more information call TC logiQ at 877-825-6447. To protect your club, the RRCA insurance program has special protection in the event of an incident of sexual misconduct by a volunteer. However, all members must do everything possible to protect youth participants from sexual predators. Periodically review your local sex offender registry to cross check with youth program volunteers.

Grand Prix

Working with other clubs within your state to develop a grand prix series is a great way to promote statewide running and spotlight one of your club-hosted events. Learn more about grand prix series in the For Race Directors section.

Other RRCA Programs for Clubs

The RRCA offers many programs and services that benefit local clubs including the RRCA Convention. The RRCA Convention serves as a training and networking resource for clubs. In addition, clubs bid to host the RRCA Convention on an annual basis. Hosting the RRCA Convention can be a great fundraising opportunity for a club will to host a top-notch event. Learn more about RRCA programs to benefit your club.

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