Inside Ireland’s Ever-Growing Running Community

"The community I have created through the club is amazing"

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Are you even on Instagram if you haven’t seen at least half of your followers posting a picture of themselves beaming at the finish line of either a 10k or half marathon?

Running has taken the fitness world by storm in 2024 with more people than ever lacing up their trainers and building up miles one tempo run at a time. The cardiovascular sport saw a significant rise not so long ago during the Covid-19 pandemic. People couldn’t attend their normal gym or club sessions so running became a staple to both stay fit and get some fresh air whilst limited to a five-kilometer boundary. Not surprisingly, after gyms reopened and classes resumed the number of runners on the street slumped once again.

So why now is it that every second person you see jogging down the road is in a brightly coloured pair of Hokas? In fact, the designer shoe brand saw a 34% sales growth in the 2024 fiscal year. Run clubs have exploded in popularity with people swapping out their chilled Sunday mornings for an easy jog through the city.

So why is everyone running? And is it here to stay or is it just another trend running through society?

According to statistics from 2023-2024, 47% of men and 31% of women report running one to three times a week. The benefits of running speak for themselves, the reduction in symptoms of anxiety and the boost in mood as well as the numerous physical benefits are what motivate runners to get out and run come rain, hail, or shine.

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It can be tricky to stay motivated while in this sometimes-lonesome sport, and it can be difficult to hold yourself accountable to get up early or venture out in the evening to train. In response to this growing trend and the demand for a more social running community, more and more run clubs are cropping up around towns and cities in Ireland. Runday Club is a prime example of a new-up-and-coming running community in Cork City.

Physio students Eve Hession and Emma Walsh set up @rundayclubcork in January of this year. After starting off running on their own the two friends decided they wanted to bring a more social aspect to running in the city. The pair thought about joining some existing clubs but expressed how daunting it felt to join a club where the participants were already quite advanced runners.

The Runday Club is a fun and safe community for runners of all levels who want to connect and have the chats whilst getting in those steps. “Running can be a lonely sport,” says Eve, so running clubs like this are a great way of meeting new people. Being physio students, the girls know their stuff when it comes to the mental health benefits of running. Emma explains how there is “so much evidence around how exercise can help mental health”.

According to the running duo, the main participants of the club are “college students and people in their 20s”. At the beginning “it was a majority of girls” who were taking part in the runs but as time went on and the club grew, they now have nearly just as many male runners.

When asked about their goals for the club the two students mentioned how they want to “keep encouraging new people to join” and participate in more events. The club has already partnered with a handful of athleisure brands such as Gym & Coffee, Asics, Brooks, and Lululemon, the latter also sponsored the club for its shake-out run ahead of the Cork marathon in June. These two social media savvy students have showcased their wholesome Sunday Runs with their loyal “Runday squad” over on their Instagram.


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Often people have tried to enter their running era and have been overwhelmed by countless TikTok videos giving tips and advice: “My top five tips for running your first 5k” or “Avoid doing this when you run”. These kinds of videos can sometimes make you feel that you will never be that Hoka trainer and Lululemon-wearing athlete you pinned to your Pinterest board back in the new year.

Niamh McNamara is a seasoned runner who after a few short stints decided to fully commit to the sport in 2023. Since the beginning of her running journey, Niamh has completed 5k and 10k races as well as her first half marathon in 2024. Having a goal to achieve is vital for a runner, especially a beginner, to stay motivated. The experienced runner explains how “My goals are changing all the time and that is a big part of my motivation. This year my goal was to run the half marathon distance of The Great Limerick Run.”

Feeling self-conscious whilst running can be quite a difficult hurdle to overcome, nobody wants to be stared at whilst they are working up a sweat running down the street. The nugget of advice Niamh gives is that “realising that no one is watching you is the best thing you can do”. She adds, “If anyone is passing judgment it’s probably because they wish they were pushing themselves as hard as you”.

She has also documented a lot of her running journey on her Instagram @niamhs_life. “Initially I started sharing it as a way to keep myself accountable, but the more I started to love running the more I started to love the content I was creating”.

The creator shares a variety of content including weekly dinner roundups, what I eat in a day, and of course her many training sessions. “Personally, I find it hugely inspiring watching my favourite creators achieve their goals and do all the amazing things they are doing”.

Niamh mentions how it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by seeing all this content but that it is important to remember that “a full-time fitness influencer has a lot more time on their hands to train for a marathon than someone working a normal 9-5, so no matter what your journey looks like, you’re amazing for even starting.”

Niamh speaks candidly about how she has seen lots of improvements in her mental health since beginning her running journey. Like so many people, she grew up with a massive pressure to look a certain way” “it’s only since running in my late 20s that I have managed to take that pressure off myself. I have finally come to the realisation that I don’t need to look a certain way to achieve my goals and be happy, running has easily helped me to get to that place”.

It’s clear that social media has had a significant impact on the explosion of running in recent times. Niamh explains how people wanted a change from going to the pub every weekend: “People like me wanted a new challenge for themselves. Social media helped to show the fun side of running and helped people to connect and build communities.”

The avid runner has also formed a wonderful community of runners in Limerick city with the running club Croissant Run Club Limerick. Although she will always be proud of the races she has run and the personal best she has achieved, Niamh expresses how her biggest achievement is the creation of her running club. “The community I have created through the club is amazing and seeing connections that people have formed and the part I have played in those has been the most surreal thing I have ever experienced.”

So, whether you have already hopped on the running trend or were too intimidated to begin, this is your sign to break in the trainers and get running.

Words by Olivia O’Dwyer