'Run club Tinder': Runners leave dating cliche in its tracks

Jessica Belzycki
Updated May 15 2024 - 3:22pm, first published May 14 2024 - 11:33am

When Sydney-based student Nat Lawrance laces up her sneakers and sprints out the door dating is the last thing on her mind.

"I don't want to rock up to run club Tinder," Ms Lawrance said.

Nat Lawrance (Bottom row, fourth from the left) at her weekly run with the Bondi Beach Run Club. Picture Supplied
Nat Lawrance (Bottom row, fourth from the left) at her weekly run with the Bondi Beach Run Club. Picture Supplied

As social run clubs explode across the country, some TikToks have dubbed the weekly exercise as the new, in-person dating app.

A regular at the Bondi Beach Run Club, Ms Lawrance said some run clubs pushed dating as a major draw but that was far from the majority.

"I am a bit uncomfortable about it because now people come to run clubs with an expectation that everyone there wants to date," she said.

John Day marked his 500th parkrun at Cleveland, QLD. At 93 years old he has become the oldest person in the world to achieve this milestone.

Ms Lawrance said that some newcomers thought a run club meant you were open to being hit on.

"I just want to be here to hang out with my friends and start the day off right," she said.

Running from Bondi to Bronte Beach, the free run club has more than 3,000 followers on Instagram and attracts an average of 30 runners each week.

Ms Lawrance joined in September 2023 to broaden her social circle and meet people in her area.

"It is pretty much my life, for making friends it has been fantastic."

Founder of Melbourne's women-only Slow Paced Run Club, Shainah Hine, is also not keen on any running flirtation.

"I think it's really hard to make platonic friendships as well without having that other pressure," Ms Hine said.

She said while she understood the appeal of meeting people in an organic way, she wanted her run club to be relaxed and carefree.

"I wanted to have a really inclusive environment for women so they can try something new and not feel as though it's something that's scary or unachievable," she said.

"If you told me this time last year that I had built a run club, I would think you are crazy because I despised running not that long ago."

No running away from run clubs

When Ms Hine started the group in June 2023 seven people showed up.

In just under a year, her Facebook group has grown to more than 12,000 people, with scheduled runs throughout Melbourne ranging from 35 to 85 people.

She holds ten scheduled runs across Melbourne with other coordinators and some groups have formed in other cities through her social media community.

Regional areas are not immune to the Australian running craze.

Run Clubs have popped up in Albury-Wodonga, Cessnock and Newcastle.

Newcastle run clubs, the Never Run Club and the Bar Beach Run Club have seen a boom in their attendees.

Co-founder of the Never Run Club, Lachie Miller, said he started the group in March 2023 with ten of his friends. Now, he is typically joined by 100 to 120 runners.

Moving from a small town called West Wyalong, NSW in 2021, Mr Miller wanted to encourage people to get to know each other.

"It is super welcoming since it has become more popular, people are just getting out to do something to better themselves in a like-minded group," Mr Miller said.

The Never Run Club meets on Friday mornings outside Nobbys Beach and at Merewether Baths on Wednesday evenings for 15 minute runs in each direction.

"We want to encourage absolutely everyone to just give it a go. Everyone is doing it together so it doesn't matter how fit you are or how fast you are," Mr Miller said.

Founder of the Bar Beach Run Club, Jack Roylance, said social media has played a huge role in the run club boom.

He started in early 2023 and saw his group grow to 160 to 170 each week after promoting his Instagram content.

Jack Roylance started the Bar Beach Run Club in early 2023. Picture supplied
Jack Roylance started the Bar Beach Run Club in early 2023. Picture supplied

The group runs between a three point eight and five kilometre loop from the Bar Beach Bowling Club on Friday mornings.

Originally from Canberra, Mr Roylance found his run club was a great way to meet people.

"Coming together, socialising and exercising and I think it plays a very critical role in people's weeks," Mr Roylance said.

"Everyone's just smiling and having a good time, and you can sit there and have a coffee with each other, and it's just almost a bit of magic."

Jessica Belzycki

Journalist at the Newcastle Herald.