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Create or grow a running/walking group

1. Add Running to the culture2

Parkersburg’s River City Runners and Walkers hold dozens of events every year. When there’s an adult run, there are children’s events too. “This is becoming a running town,” said longtime board member Sharon Marks. “We’re making it easy to start running.” (Photo courtesy, River City Runners and Walkers)


When the Shepherdstown adult runners have a run for grownups, they often pair it with a kids’ event. “The kids events are mostly for fun,” said Dr. Mark Cucuzzella. “We want the kids to learn to love running and associate it with a good time and good health.” Photo courtesy Mark Cucuzzella

Parkersburg’s River City Runners and Walkers Club offers more more than 30 events a year, including national award-winning beginners’ clinics. More than 1,000  people – including more than 400 kids – participate each year.

After 20 years, the club is still volunteer-run. Each board member directs at least one event.  They have organized running clubs in all high schools.

“We wanted to make running part of the culture here, and you can’t do that if you just have a few events a year,” said Sharon Marks, longtime board member. “You need to build something that’s there for people week after week.”

“It’s great to attract people from out-of-town to your events, and we do that,” she said, “but our main focus has always been the people who live here, helping them run and walk and get fit from week to week.”

The group posts daily runs.  “This not a clubby, exclusive group,” Marks said. “We never say, “Oh, you don’t look like you can run with us.” If you fall behind on a daily run, we’ll come back and get you.”


Women of the Lincoln County’s Mud River Volunteer Fire Department had no track, gym or nearby grocery. But they dramatically improved their health by forming their own group, walking every day and working out at the fire station to exercise videos. “Our doctors told us we needed to do something, and.we just decided OK, we’re going to do it,” said group member Melisa Ferrell. In six months, they lost an average of 70 pounds apiece. (Photo: Kate Long)

Regular club events answer the teenage complaint of “nothing to do,” she said. “We have a blast.”

Read more:

Read the rest of the Sharon Marks interview here.

Groups in other WV communities are growing fast:

  • In four counties, Active Southern West Virginia is stirring up running and walking events right and left.  They have team captains and weekly runs in Fayette, Raleigh, Summers and Nicholas Counties. Check them out for inspiration and ideas!


    When the Jackson County Health Department invited the public to join the new “Moovin’ and Groovin'” program, they hoped for maybe 200 members, nurse Wendy Crawford said. They got more than 700! “People are hungry for something like this,” Crawford said. Photo courtesy Moovin’ and Groovin’

  • Glenville: volunteers parlayed a $3,000 grant into Gilmer County on the  Move, a running and walking program with hundreds of members. “From that seed, we’re still going,” said organizer Jeff Campbell.
  • In Shepherdstown, organizers of the huge yearly Freedom’s Run also organize almost-weekly clinics for children and adults. Every year, they donate the proceeds (net about $15,000) to build school running trails and support a hiking program for middle-schoolers at the National Park.
  • In Mingo County, the Tug River Road Runners and Mingo Diabetes Coalition offer local monthly 5Ks, to help local people build the running habit. “When people know there’s going to be another 5K the next month, they do daily runs, so they can beat their time,” organizer Alexis Batausa said.  See


Want to start or expand a running/walking club?

Here’s step-by-step advice from people who are already doing it:



With a few thousand in seed money from West Virginia on the Move, Gilmer County created Gilmer on the Move, which is still going. “We want to make exercise visible, so people see it as just part of what we do,” he said. “When it hasn’t been that way, you have to do it deliberately.” Here, racers run through the middle of Glenville. Photo courtesy Nancy Tompkins

  • Make a list of people in your community who run or walk regularly. They care about running/walking, so they may be interested in helping start a group that makes it easier/more fun for others to join in. Bring them together to talk. Attract them with tasty, healthy food.
  • Go beyond people you know. Try Search your zip code. Advertise that you’re looking for interested folks.  Put up a notice that says a new running/walking group is organizing. Tell where the meeting is.
    • Schedule informal run/walks, some “let’s walk or run together” events. This is a good first step to a community group. Put notices in the newspaper and in social media.  Get community leaders to join.
  • Organize a six-to-eight-week community walking challenge,  like “Wild Wonderful Walking” or Mingo County’s “Walk to Los Angeles” challenge. You’ll get people walking and find people who are interested in keeping it going.  Find any ideas for fun challenges on the Try This “Fun Challenges” page.
  • If you type “how to organize a community walking and running program” into a search engine, you’ll get a wide variety of useful resources. We read them. Here are some of the best:
    • A readable guide from the Complete Running Web site.
      The Road Runners Clubs of America guide to starting a running club is more comprehensive and is probably the guide. and Many local WV running/walking clubs are affiliated with this organization.
    • The RRCA’s “runner-friendly community” program  lists the steps a community needs to take to reach that designation. It is a roadmap to becoming a model community program:


      Mingo County’s Diabetes Coalition encourages running in a variety of ways, with a daily practice run advertised on their facebook page almost every day. They also organize the Tuesday Night Track group, which anybody is free to join at any time. Photo courtesy Mingo Diabetes Coalition

  • Check out this fabulous map of all trails in West Virginia, on land and water, for hiking, biking and paddling.   More routes and trails are continuously being added. If your favorite trail is not listed – or you create a new trail – let them know!
  • Want to visit a running program or get firsthand advice? The new West Virginia Running Resource Network can help you! Fill out this request for mentoring.
  • Caption

    Retired Mingo County teachers Debbie Young, Mary Ann Elia, and Dru Simpkins started walking together when the Mingo Diabetes Coalition started lunchtime walk challenges. Two years later, they were walking four miles a day to keep in shape for the monthly 5Ks in Williamson. Photo: Kate Long

    Set up a way your group can benefit local charities. That motivates peopleto join. River City Runners and Walkers donates a portion of each race’s proceeds to a different charity and raises money for running shoes for kids who can’t afford them.

  • Plan a monthly program, not just a couple of days a year. If there are events every month, people can build a running or walking habit. It provides the support needed. See this Try This page.
  • But regular programs need to organize single events too. Here’s a guide:  (Kentucky Extension Service)
  • Put up a facebook page that lets people know what’s happening, when the next 5K is, the routes and times of daily runs. Examples:
    • The Tug Valley Road Runners let people know on their facebook page several times a week where a run will start, so people can join in:
    • River City Runners and Walkers has an extensive facebook page.
    • A group of Charleston-area people organized themselves into an informal physical activity group by putting up a facebook page called “Volleyball and other on Magic Island.”
  •  Start a children’s running program. See the children’s running Try This page. Here are a few ideas from that page:

Parkersburg’s River City Runners and Walkers holds at least one children’s event each time they have an adult event. Children get a T-shirt at the first one, and an iron-on star for all afterwards. At the end of the year, if they have four stars, they come to a childrens’ party at the Y. Photo: Kate Long


Go visit a West Virginia club. Here’s a list:


Some clubs are active every week, others less so. Most West Virginia clubs are affiliates of the Road Runners Clubs of America. It’s an easy way to get started:


 Who did we miss?

If you know of a running group that isn’t listed here, please write the info into the comments section at the bottom of this page.


River City kids-4

Kids who like to run will run under just about any circumstances. Photo courtesy River City Runners and Walkers.

Keep up with West Virginia running events.

There is no statewide running group, and nobody is keeping a complete calendar of runs, but many of the groups listed above have regional calendars.  Also see bike stores.  The following calendars carry listings from groups that sign up:



Find out who is involved in acquiring land rights for trails, running and hiking.  See Charleston’s Land Trust plan for some great idea about what your community can do.

Looking for funding for your group? See $$$ page and the Try This minigrants page.


 Related Try This pages:  Start a kids’ running program, Run-for-fun programs in the schoolsCreate a trail system, Girls on the Run, Community walking/running challenges, organize beginner running classes

Have something to add? Write it in “reply” below, with your contact info, in case we have questions.



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