The Best Alternative to Dating Apps? Running Clubs, Apparently.


Cindy Sandjo, a 29-year-old content creator who works in I.T. and lives in Dallas, was initially interested in joining a running club because she was in search of other Black people she could connect with.

She joined her first run at the end of May and immediately began posting videos about her newfound interest on social media. She was quickly informed by her followers that running clubs “are the new dating apps.”

“I joined for the running and also for the community, just to find people that have similar interests as me,” she said. “But I stayed because, yeah, it’s an opportunity for me to find a husband.”

A recent flurry of videos on TikTok and Instagram suggests that running clubs, in addition to being a great way to improve one’s health and train with other like-minded individuals, are also the new way to date. Why chase potential lovers online when they may be waiting for you at the finish line?

After about a week of training with Run It Up, a Dallas running club, Ms. Sandjo was stopped during a run by another participant who said he had seen her Instagram. It was a Saturday, and they struck up conversation, exchanged contact information and messaged each other before meeting up the next day to run together.

“I told him, ‘I’m just starting to run, so I’m sorry if I slow you down,’” she recalled. “And he was like, ‘No no no, it’s going to be my off day, so I’ll match your pace.’”

Posts from new members sharing their experience joining running clubs and enjoying the benefits — dating is high on the list — have driven social media users to look into running clubs in their communities: in California, in Illinois, in Florida. In one tongue-in-cheek video posted by the Chicago Run Collective, a woman highlights her reasons for joining the group, embodied by a montage of shirtless, good-looking men with ripped bodies.

One man posted a video on TikTok joking about how he had joined running clubs as an alternative to dating apps and was surprised by how little socializing was taking place: “Why is everybody sprinting, and why is everybody in the front?”

All of this attention has been a boon for clubs looking to build their membership. Many even incorporate other social gatherings, like post-run meet-ups at local bars, that enhance the appeal for singles looking to flirt while getting fit.

But what is it actually like when you want to go the distance with long-distance runners, especially if you’re a newbie? Runners are known to be highly disciplined, laser-focused on the practice and obsessed with their health. This might not be the best match for late-night, shot-drinking partygoers. But in some cases, opposites do attract.

Theo Murdaugh, the founder of Run It Up, says that it’s important for people to understand that running is a lifestyle, especially during an intense training season. His ex was just getting into running when they began dating more than two years ago, but she wasn’t quite at his level. They would at times have to cut date nights short so he could rest before a long run the next morning. “My ex would always say, ‘I feel like I’m your sidekick when it comes to running,’” he said.

“I think when somebody dates me and sees that I’m really intentional about it and they see that I’m doing Run It Up, they love it from the outside looking in,” he added. “And then, when they start dating me, they’re like: ‘Oh shoot, this dude is really serious about this. Like, he literally scheduled our dates around his running schedule.’”

He founded the running club about three months ago, after noticing a lack of running spaces for Black and brown people in Dallas. Mr. Murdaugh, who is 37 and has been running for more than 10 years, said that the group had begun with around 20 people and that now it’s at roughly 300, a growth that he credits to the club’s promotional videos on Instagram and the surging interest in running clubs as dating hot spots.

He normally runs about 30 miles a week, spread across Tuesday, Wednesday and the weekend. If he has a date on Friday, he’ll usually ask to meet up for happy hour around 4 or 5 p.m. and stay out until around 8 or 9. That way, he’s getting a full night’s rest before his 15-mile run the next day.

“Saturday is a little bit more flexible because those are normally my recovery, easy-pace runs, so I can do a 6, 7 o’clock dinner,” he said. “But then I like to be home before midnight because I have my recovery run the next day and then I also don’t want to run hangover or run not feeling good.”

Julia Meyer, the founder of Point B, a New York City running and fitness club, said that there were definitely upsides to the experience, but that if someone was joining a run club to date, that person should consider the risks — and make sure not to come off as “predatory.”

“Within my community I can see people finding each other cute and going on dates and stuff, but it’s also like dating your co-worker in a way,” said Ms. Meyer, 29, who lives in Queens.

“It’s up to you if you want to make this awkward for yourself if it doesn’t work out,” she added.

Her training periods are intense and can include 14-mile bike rides or up to 10-mile runs most days. Ms. Meyer said that she was currently single and dating, but that she most likely wouldn’t date a runner again after having an unpleasant experience with one in the past.

“The person I’m dating now is a photographer, so he spends hours on end in a darkroom,” she said. “So it’s like, Yeah, go to your little darkroom thing — I’m going to be outside running for the next four hours.”

Noah Hutchins, who has been running and playing sports since he was a child, doesn’t mind the growing trend of people joining run clubs, including the one he co-founded, BK Run Club, to date, because those new additions are getting the added benefit of improving their health.

“I don’t have a run club so that people can date, like it actually is more of a health-and-wellness-centered idea,” said Mr. Hutchins, who lives in Brooklyn. “For some of these people who aren’t currently runners, it’s good social pressure to get into running actually. A lot of people are turning into runners because they want to date and be social.”

The benefit to dating a runner or someone who is into fitness, according to Mr. Hutchins, is that a person’s lifestyle and discipline can be motivational to a partner who shares similar health goals. Being into running is not a deal breaker for him, but an appealing added bonus.

“She doesn’t have to be as serious as I am about my health and fitness and stuff, because I think I’m a little bit of a psychopath,” he said.

Mr. Murdaugh, however, cautioned that if you were going to join with the sole intention to date, you might come up short. Many participants are there with a running goal in mind, and no one likes a creep floating around.

“What I would tell a new person is, ‘Don’t think you’re just going to come out there and kick it,’” he said.

Send your thoughts, stories and tips to thirdwheel@nytimes.com.





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