I Don’t Have A Running Tribe, And That’s OK

I’m going to let you in on a secret.

I don’t have a running tribe: no running mentors, no #runnergirlgang, no best running friends. I have no matching motivational wrap bracelets, no cute “mother runner” slogan t-shirts, no wings, no hashtags.

You see it all over Instagram or Facebook, or maybe Strava lets you know four or five people went on a run together. Group runs with a coffee stop afterwards. Group-runs-with-the-stroller-plus-playdates-afterwards. A standing Friday morning run date with a training partner. I just don’t have that.

And that’s all right with me.

It’s not that I hate people: when I run with other people, I enjoy it! Caraway was in town with her family recently, and we made a date to run together, chatting all the way.

But I don’t actively seek it out regularly. For the past two years I’ve been a member of a local running group that has track workouts with a coach, but save for races and Monday night track sessions, I don’t see them in person that often because we’re otherwise running at different paces and times of day.

Sure, I have friends who are runners, but they don’t live all that near me. Throw kids into the mix, and to get all of us out of the house and in the same place at the same time requires the stars to align. (We have done races together, though!) As for training partners who live nearby, conversation with most of my neighbors goes like this: “Did you run again today?” “Yeah, I’m training for a marathon.” It’s like I’ve just told them I’m a time-traveler from Mars or revealed that I have two heads. We have plenty else in common, so it doesn’t bother me.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve moved around a lot, not found other nearby runners at the same pace, or just have an odd running schedule that’s incompatible with most other teammates’ due to work and family commitments. I just haven’t found the right combination of place, pace, time of day, and personality here yet.

But also — to be totally honest — I’m completely happy to run solo. I love it at 6 a.m. when the world is still and silent and it’s just me and my footsteps and the sunrise along a favorite route. I appreciate the mental toughness I earn from gritting out a speed workout on the treadmill in my apartment complex’s tiny exercise room, for when I race I’m deep inside my own head, drawing from that reserve of mental toughness with every breath. I savor the freedom that comes from exploring a new trail on a long run, without worrying whether my training partner has to get home for another weekend commitment, or being anxious about keeping up with a group. I don’t even — horror of horrors — post every run on social media.

And yet I also love the fact that running does build community, and that the internet has done so much to facilitate that. For what is Salty Running itself but a virtual tribe? I think it’s fantastic when runners connect with each other and build each other up and compete with each other and cheer each other on.

I may not have a real-life running tribe, but I feel kinship with every other runner out there. It’s a broad church, after all. I can always identify with a runner when they execute their first perfect snot rocket, or when their favorite shoe model gets altered yet again. (Some things really are universal!) I’ve high-fived fellow stroller-pushers jogging on the river trail as our kids peered out at each other curiously. I once ran into another runner at the supermarket, both of us sweaty, disheveled and stuffing our running packs full of groceries, and exchanged a knowing smile with her.

It’s great to have a tribe, but I don’t need one to be part of the great wide universe of runners. And that’s all right with me.

Are you tribeless?

Tropical transplant to the chilly Northeast. Professional writer and researcher, cantankerous editor, mom to one inquisitive toddler, asker of inconvenient questions.

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16 comments

  1. +1 on being tribe-free!
    Leaves ya open to meeting and mixing with the other loners, cast-offs, temporarily-single-runners-without-their-posse, and even (gasp!) various tribes – or not – rather than being perpetually ensconced.

  2. On Tuesdays (and some Saturdays) I run with a group…by which I mean we start at the same time/place and I run hopelessly behind them, but we wave on loops passing. Most people who run anywhere near my pace don’t run anywhere near the distance I run…or something. I haven’t found a running partner. Add that I am a triathlete and have a complex workout schedule…and sometimes strange work hours/locations and it just doesn’t happen. But I certainly have a TRIBE. Not a group with a hashtag or private FB page…I know people who are part of that, but I am not invited to that party and I am ok with that. Because when I did a self-supported 100 mile triathlon last weekend, I was only alone for about 30 minutes of a 12 hour day. Husband, coach, friends…with me. That is a TRIBE!

    1. That made me chuckle – I once did a ‘group run’ on a day when only the faster people showed up…after 4 or 5 miles trying to keep up by fartlek, I lumbered off into the forest like a dying elephant for the good of the herd. What’s a 100-mile triathlon? It sounds like something between a half iron distance and a full? Anyway, that is as good a tribe as any other!!

  3. I am also without a tribe. Juggling work and family with running means i don’t have the luxury of group runs plus we don’t have many running clubs in my area either. Although sometimes I wish I had a training partner for long runs as I start talking to myself or singing along to my iPod out loud when a little boredom sets in.

  4. I am a solo runner and I don’t mind it one bit. I get a bit of anxiety being with big groups or even people I know and they invite people I don’t know. I have a weird running schedule b/c of my husbands job, i just started working and I don’t feel like running at 4:30am to fit in a run ( plus I just don’t feel I’m efficient at that hour). i enjoy running alone, it doesn’t bother me and I don’t need the “tribe or running family ” to feel like a runner. So here to more “no-tribe” runners out there enjoying their runs!

  5. I’m also tribe-free! I do most runs at the gym at 4:00am, to get it done before work (because when you run slow AND have to be at work at 7:30, that’s how it goes), and get outside on the weekends. I’ll do a group run occasionally, but I usually wind up by myself…again, the slowness, plus I am just bad at holding a conversation when I’m stationary…it’s even worse when I’m trying to keep a steady pace running.

  6. I would actually love to have a tribe, but as others mentioned, the pace/timing/etc. prevents it. That said, I definitely count the people who comment on and write for this site as my virtual tribe! And I’ve adapted, and embraced my ability to run at all, even without buddies along for the time…

  7. I used to have a tribe, well tribes. But now I mostly don’t, but can run with groups or friends if I want. After years of running with others and having to hit paces and stuff, it’s nice to do whatever the F I want to do and run on my terms.

  8. Yes. Thank you for saying all this. I like that I get to run on my terms most of the time (at 5am!). I’ve had great running partners in the past but not really since college and definitely not since having kids. But I always wave to the folks I see out regularly!

  9. i was going to say “fellow runner without a tribe here” but realized that’s not true! Salty Running is totally my tribe. But I’m Berlin, I almost always run alone and don’t know many other runners. Sometimes I wish I did, but mostly I’m happy for the quiet time afforded by my runs.

    I loved meeting up with you last week, Mango! So fun!

  10. I don’t have any regular running partners and I’m okay with that. I dislike trying to keep up with a faster runner and I’d like to be able to run at my chosen pace. I’m an introvert, so my solo runs are recharging. I like doing them when I want to rather than coordinating with someone else.

    That said, anytime I’m around runners virtually or in person, I feel like I’m in a tribe, because we all like and participate in the same sport. We speak the same language and I find those brief exchanges enjoyable. One of the reasons I love trail running is that the community is especially like that when compared to the roads.

    My husband runs, so we’re able to talk about running (and I’m looking forward to finally getting speedier again so we can run together). I’ve met some runners in person who I see regularly as part of CrossFit classes and then at races.

    It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way!

  11. I’m a perfectly happy no tribe runner. I have a hubby and three kids, plus I work full time, so those early morning solo runs are my much enjoyed me time. I barely wake up for the first few kms, then I spend the rest of it mentally preparing for my day. I do belong to a club that does weekly races thru winter, and I log runs to Strava and both those things give me more than enough of a social aspect to my running. I guess I’m a cat runner rather than a dog runner!

  12. Same girl, same! I think it works better for me too because I also prefer to race alone. Any race where I’ve started with a friend, even if we have an agreement we won’t stay together, ends terribly for me!

    I can get behind easy/long runs with friends/a group, but I have pretty much zero interest doing track workouts with other people. I need to practice being in the pain cave and keeping myself accountable on my own so I don’t choke later on. There have been a few magical times when I’ve linked up with a random stranger mid-race to pace off of — that’s always awesome!!

  13. Large group runs are overwhelming, stressful, just not my jam (fellow introvert). I have a handful of ladies I run with very often (my mini tribe) and a few others more sporadically. At this phase in my life, I’m with Salty, more of a laid back approach to running. But I still love to log miles and jump in races haphazardly. It can be challenging to find people with the same outlook on running.