What Is A Run Leader?

Rich Sadler

As part of my role as a Sports Activator for Leeds City Council, I have had the opportunity to be involved in numerous different running groups around the city. Growing up I have always played team sports. I had never run as part of a group before becoming a run leader, let alone lead one, so was a little unsure as to what to expect. I’ve always felt I’ve benefitted from the camaraderie and friendships that team sports provide so was looking forward to see how this worked in a run group.


So what is a run leader?


When I sat down to write this article, this is the question that I started with. On the face of it, it seems pretty self-explanatory but when you start to pick at the seams, being a run leader is more complex than you might think.


I very quickly became aware that there is more to being a run leader than just turning up in your running gear and hitting the paths and pavements. The role is an all-encompassing one. You have to be able to plan, assess risk, co-ordinate, recruit, retain, lead, manage, support and many of the other ‘buzz-words’ that might seem more familiar in an episode of The Apprentice.


My UK Athletics Leadership in Running Fitness qualification had me well prepared. The route was planned and checked, the paperwork was all in place and the plan for the session was set and good to go.


Then the runners arrived…


Each group is different, just as each runner within each group is different. This is one of the best things about being a run leader – you have the opportunity to interact with such a wide range of different people…which can also provide you with one of the biggest headaches! Everyone has different motivations for running, whether it be for fun, for weight loss or even just to run off the stresses and strains of the day. Creating a social environment where all these people are able to run together is a vital part of being a run leader. Managing such a diverse group with such varying needs and motivations can certainly be challenging, but, ultimately, being able to see people develop and benefit from their running is a fitting reward.


What’s great about running as part of a group is that it can help you to develop all of the necessary skills that a good run leader needs to possess without you even realising. It could be shouting back to your fellow runners to warn them about an upcoming hazard – being a clear and effective communicator is an essential tool in the run leader’s armoury. It might be giving the person next to you an extra little push to help them conquer that daunting hill. A run leader isn’t pushy, but certainly seeks to motivate and encourage those around them. It could even just be welcoming a new runner into the group. A good run leader will always seek to create a friendly, social environment where runners can feel relaxed and really enjoy their running. Everyone has the ability within them to lead a run group, even if you might not realise it yet.


I’ve really enjoyed my experiences as a run leader so far. I’ve met an array of different people along the way – all of whom have an interesting story to tell. I certainly know the streets of Leeds better now as well thanks to the many miles covered with the different groups!


To some people a run leader is just that – a leader. To others you may be a coach, a sounding board or a friend. Whatever your relationship to runners in your group may be, what’s important to remember is that we all share one thing in common – running!



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