Run clubs: Dublin’s new social hub for the 20-somethings


20-Somethings in Dublin Discover the Joy of Running Clubs: A New Social Hub, Concept art for illustrative purpose, tags: run - Monok

Have you seen them? Young adults in traditional Hoka-shoe attire frequently congregate at Dublin hotspots such as Phoenix Park, Grand Canal, and Dún Laoghaire Pier. Dozens of enthusiastic twenty-somethings chatting, panting, and bonding over their shared love for running. If you haven’t witnessed them in motion, brace yourself for the long queues they create at your local cafes on weekend mornings.

So, how have these groups managed to captivate so many aimless twenty-somethings? Is it the workout itself that motivates, or is it merely the anticipation of a reward following a run? Or could it be that run clubs are the new dating apps?

It’s intriguing to consider how the impulsive nature of youth has evolved into something as sensible and admirable as running.

Where fitness meets friendship

“I think the third or fourth priority down the list for everyone coming is actually the run itself,” confesses Gillian Sullivan.

About six months back, she and her partner, Daniel O’Farrell, inadvertently established Pastry Pace. O’Farrell, an ultra-marathon enthusiast, initially assisted Gillian in her 5km runs. The duo never intended to create a running club, but their social media updates detailing their journey—and the promise of post-run pastries—swiftly captured the interest of friends and followers.

Presently, they lead a group of nearly 80 individuals through Phoenix Park every Sunday, culminating in a communal indulgence of croissants at a nearby cafe.

Everyone is saying well, all my friends have emigrated and I need to meet new people

Aoibhinn Raleigh

Kate Flynn and Ciara McNulty from Happy Feet relish meeting scores of new people for a cup of coffee following their regular jogs. The two formed a connection at the gym based on their mutual love for keeping fit and the intention of making the gym seem less frightening to those around them. Within weeks of launching Happy Feet in August 2023, they welcomed 80 runners and even more eager socializers.

It’s clear that these running clubs offer more than just physical fitness benefits

“The amount of people that hang back after all of the runs, weekends and weekdays, it just makes it obvious that people are there for the social aspect of it,” Flynn related.

Several of their runners, often nervous to attend alone, soon find themselves making new friends over a post-run coffee or pastry. By the end of each gathering, they exchange contact details and look forward to their next meetup.

It’s the coolest thing, we barely have to do anything! We just show up

Ciara McNulty

But why has the running club become such a popular meeting place for young people? Is the pub no longer the social hub it once was?

Aoibhinn Raleigh, founder of Sole Mates, explains the difference.

“You’d never go to the pub on your own and go up to a random group of girls and start a conversation with them! But in a run club, it’s suddenly completely okay,” she pointed out.

She admitted she had traded her penchant for alcohol for the companionship found in running.

In just two weeks since launching the club’s Instagram page, it already boasts nearly 2,000 followers. Also, about 105 enthusiastic runners participated in their first run.

Amidst the prevalence of virtual interactions in today’s society, young adults in Dublin have discovered a unique way to build genuine connections through the growing phenomenon of run clubs. These communities offer more than just health and fitness benefits; they provide opportunities for individuals to engage in meaningful conversations and form lasting friendships.

“For people who might be somewhat lonely, maybe they’re new to the city or they don’t have that many friends or they haven’t found their groove – which is such a huge theme in people’s 20s – it is just nice to know that people will be there,” Ciara McNulty commented.

In a time marked by instability and transformation, the allure of genuine human connection has led countless young adults in the city to embrace the camaraderie in these clubs.

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