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Trail Runner’s dirty dozen running clubs from Boulder to Bangkok
Boulder Trail-Running Breakfast Club. Photo submitted by Nancy Cooper.
Trail running is sometimes a solitary sport—miles and miles in the woods with only your Garmin for company. That’s great for some days, but meeting up with other runners can pump fresh energy into your routine, lead to new friendships and boost your motivation to hit the trails.
Several weeks ago, we asked our readers to nominate their favorite trail-running groups. With more than 400 enthusiastic nominations pouring in from all over the globe, it was a challenge to choose only 12, but here are our “dirty dozen” top picks for clubs we would like to join.
1. Happy Utah Mountain Runners
Salt Lake City, Utah
Photo submitted by Dan Frey
“Somewhere along the Wasatch Front in Northern Utah,” says Happy Utah Mountain Runner (HUMR) Lindsay Lauck, “lies a sleeper cell of beer-drinking ultrarunners, linked by a love of the mountains, trail running, PBR, as well as a lack of common sense.” This small but mighty crew of roughly 50 rugged outdoor athletes is made up of beginners, weekend warriors and accomplished ultrarunners. According the club bylaws, all HUMRs should have a passion for trail running, a strong sense of humor and quality health coverage.
The group hosts lots of fun events throughout the year: six-hour “fun runs,” beer mile races, donut runs, themed holiday runs and group outings to the Grand Canyon, Zion Traverse, the Grand Tetons and more. HUMRs also commission members to run aid stations at local events and to manage their local Ogden Trails Network. At the end of the year, they have a heck of a party, complete with gear and prize giveaways.
Member Rave: “I am proud to be a HUMR and have enjoyed seeing the growth not just with the group but with each person and how well they respond to challenges and lending a hand in the community. So, raise a glass to the HUMR’s—‘cause if you leave it on the table, we’ll drink it!” –Aric W Manning
2. Crooked River Trail Runners
Cuyahoga Valley, OH
Photo submitted by Luke Baum
The Crooked River Trail Runners (CRTR) meet every Thursday evening for a five-mile run in Ohio’s only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where waterfall sightings, creek crossings and rock scrambles abound. The group boasts nearly 2000 members on Facebook and runs rain or shine (or snow!), even through northern Ohio’s brutally cold winters. Its runners range in age from 10 to 72 years old.
Although Thursdays are the only official group-run days, many members run together on other days of the week, too—and several annual themed runs, including an Easter egg run and Halloween costume run, keep the club stoked year round. A newly minted “club house” offers a space for club members to hang out after the runs and celebrate birthdays or other occasions together, complete with the occasional muddy-shoe-themed cake.
CRTR doesn’t do intense workouts; it’s the group’s casual atmosphere that keeps runners coming back to the trails week after week. Their sponsor, Western Reserve Racing, puts on about a dozen short and long trail races throughout Ohio every year, including the iconic Burning River 100.
Member Rave: “I have lived in Cleveland for many years and have been all over, but I never realized the extensive trail system we have here in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I do now, and it is remarkable … some of the best in the country.” –Luke Baum
3. Coyote Running
Los Angeles, CA
Photo submitted by Steven Selikoff
Los Angeles is more known for its concrete jungle of 18-lane highways and overpasses than for its opportunities for outdoor recreation—but urban trail enthusiasts need not despair. Runner Andy Pearson should know; he moved from Boulder, Colorado, to Los Angeles last August and worried he’d never run trails again—until he discovered “the Coyotes.”
Every Thursday morning at 6 a.m., 50-70 runners come together to enjoy the trails of Southern California’s finest wilderness areas. The club, established by coaches Jimmy Dean and Kate Martini Freeman, boasts an active, tightly-knit community of over 1000 passionate trail runners who train, race, and volunteer together, often pacing strangers at ultras or cheering raucously on race sideline. “Possibly overly loud,” says member Marshall Howland, “the Coyotes can be heard miles before any aid station they happen to be volunteering at.” The group is free, but a small, paying contingent of runners receives more intense, race-specific coaching.
An upcoming clinic called Trail Pandemonium offers runners personalized coaching, weekend long run, road and trail workouts, a personalized training schedule, weekend long runs, social events, team dinners and “endless high fives.”
Member Rave: “The motto is, ‘If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong’. I feel lucky to have stumbled upon this group; its been 2+ years and I keep coming back for more.” –William Sipes
4. Trailhead Running
Photo submitted by Susan Farago
“You’re not lost. You’re with us!” boasts the slogan of this all-female group who received the more nominations than any other club—a whopping 47, including several from men who aren’t a part of the club but consider themselves diehard supporters and frequently volunteer at Trailhead events. The club was established by Susan Farago and Richelle Criswell, two runners with a desire to provide fellow women with a fun, low-stress way to explore local trails.
The club offers an eight-week “Women on the Trails” introduction program including group runs, informative sessions and personalized workouts for each runner involved. They also host weekly speed workouts (on trails) every Tuesday, as well as free, no-drop fun runs on the Austin Greenbelt. Humor plays a huge role in the club’s ethos as well: says Kristin Madl, “You’re sure to get an awesome ab workout too, just from laughing so hard, around Susan and Richelle!”
Trailhead Running also hosts an all-female trail-race series, which includes three annual, ecofriendly “zero-waste” races. The races are short, and, to encourage a non-competitive vibe, not chip-timed.
Member Rave: “It is a welcoming and accepting place for any runner, whether a speed demon or tortoise, ultra runner or true beginner. With other clubs, I’ve been left behind on group runs; so many groups are cliquish about speed and competitiveness. But the leaders of this group make everyone feel welcome and want everyone to have a great time out on the trails.” –Amy Sugeno
5. Bangkok Runners
A relatively new group, Bangkok Runners started in 2012 and grew to over 600 members in just over a year. One member describes the club as a “United Nations of Runners,” with runners from at least 30 different countries, including Austria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Sweden, Wales and more.
They host weekly morning runs nearly every day of the week, as well as evening runs and track sessions. Sunday morning runs in Lumpini Park typically draw the biggest crowd. Locals, ex-pats, travelers, elites, midpackers and back-of-the-packers are all welcome. Last year 40 members ran across Thailand, and many members compete in the Columbia Trail Masters 50K, the North Face 100K and Bangkok Ultra Trail Festival. To get out of the city, they venture out for short jaunts in the Indian Himalayas or Thai islands.
Member Rave: “Bangkok Runners makes running, even in hot and humid conditions, really cool.” –Manfred Waibl
6. Virginia Happy Trails Running Club
Northern Virginia/Metropolitan DC
With over decades of history putting on some of the best, most affordable trail races on the east coast—the Bull Run 50 Miler, Massanutten Mountain 100 and a women’s trail half marathon, plus numerous free, fatass-style events throughout the year, such as the Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50K in December—the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club (VHTRC) is focused on fostering fun and inclusivity.
At her first fatass run with the group, Toni Aurilio say she was “embraced by all of the runners and club members, escorted almost the entire distance, AND was given the honor of taking a sip of whiskey (a bottle hanging from a tree) at mile 12/19.” Indeed, the VHTRC is known for being especially welcoming to newcomers; they host regular “PB&J” runs to introduce new runners to the local trail-running community. These six- to 10-mile runs draw lots of runners—as much for the gorgeous trails as for the potluck dinner afterwards.
The club also boasts a deep bench of top-notch talent, including Grand Slam record holder Neil Gorman, American female 24-hour record holder Sabrina Little, 2012 world 100K championships winner Amy Sproston.
Member Rave: “Many trail runners in the DC/VA/MD area call the VHTRC their second family and with good reason: in addition to training together, crewing and pacing at ultras, and giving moral support over the VHTRC Facebook page, we have attended each other’s weddings, graduations, and funerals. We have laughed and cried together through life’s hardest moments…and we were brought together through a love of trail running and a need for connection.” –Sophie Spiedel
7. Dirty Girls Trail Runners
Gig Harbor, WA
This fabulous female crew, often clad in pink, holds classes and training groups for runners of all ability levels, as well as individual coaching sessions. For as much as they work on physical training, the Dirty Girls also work on training the mind to overcome self-doubt that keeps runners from reaching their goals.
In addition to free group runs at McCormick Forest on Friday mornings, Dirty Girls holds Momentum Mondays and All Ladies Turn it Up Tuesdays, sessions dedicated to speed work, drills, and plyometrics. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, teen workouts promote self-esteem, team building, healthy friendships and physical fitness in younger runners. Dirty Girls even hosts its own race event—a half-marathon, 6.55-mile run and a free children’s one-mile race in Fort Steilacoom Park. Sister branches exist in nearby cities Seattle and Everett as well.
“Dirty Dudes” are welcome to join the ladies on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday training runs. On rare occasions, the Dirty Girls say they may try to persuade men to don a pink tutu for a race: “Haven’t you heard? Pink tutus are way more macho than tattoos.”
Member Rave: “With laughter, conversation and good energy accompanying every step, many friendships have been strengthened or built while enjoying the unique pleasures of trail running. All of the special warmth and energy of the Dirty Girls Trail Runners comes from the remarkable Alexa Martin who started the group as a way for women to be able to have the gift of a weekly safe trail run with other women.” –Rebecca Arnold [The club’s three other founders are Wenche Wahl, Kris Tebb, and Kristen Barrett.]
8. Boulder Trail-Running Breakfast Club
Photos submitted by Peter Swank
Now here’s a club every town should have: “A group of trail runners as serious about their trail running as the breakfast that follow,” the Boulder Trail-Running Breakfast Club (which has 650 members, by the way) meets on Saturday mornings, heads out to a local trailhead to run for a few hours among the beauty of Colorado’s high-altitude Front Range, then hits up a local restaurant for breakfast together afterward.
The group ranges from elite athletes who’ve run everything from 14ers to Death Valley’s grueling 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon, but a no-drop rule ensures that everyone is made to feel welcome and a part of the group on Saturdays. Many of the runners who nominated this group credited the diversity of its runners for the friendships that have been formed, the lives changed; Nancy R. Cooper says, “This group has been a blast, patient when my lungs were getting used to the altitude, educational about how to fly over the rocks and boulders running down hill, caring for each other during stream crossings and of course injuries.”
Backyard barbecues, local running movies and other social events round out the fun.
Member Rave: “Unbelievable scenery? Check. Going of the beaten path? Check. Stuffing your face after a 12 mile run? Check. Getting home feeling bruised, beat-up and completely exhausted but somehow having a smile on your face? Well that is what I believe is the true definition of an amazing trail-running group.” –Erich Nell
9. Shenipsit Striders
This club’s roots stretch back to 1975, when a group of adventuresome folks made a habit of meeting at Shenipsit State Park in Somers, Connecticut, and running the trails around and over Soapstone Mountain. Now the Shenipsit Striders is an all-inclusive trail-running clan, with members ranging in age from three to 90. The club sponsors a 24K trail run in the spring, a hilly trail race in the summer, a trail marathon in the fall and a moonlight fun run in the winter. Profits from the races are directed back to the trails through local trail organizations and stewardship programs. Their financial assistance helped a local trail series, the Bolton Summer XC series, keep their race fees affordable for all … $2 for kids, $3 for adults.
The Striders has a regularly scheduled weekend run, usually at Soapstone Mountain, and mid-week runs at local trails. The papaya-yellow Strider singlet also shows up all across the northeast—everywhere from the Vermont 100 to winter snowshoe series.
Member Rave: “Our club dates from the mid-70’s and has always focused on trails, which is a rarity because all the growth in trail running has been in the past five years. We predate that. We were weakened as our membership aged, but in the past five years, we have reenergized the organization with an influx of members and a family focus.” –Scott Livingston
10. Greater Omaha Area Trail Runnerz
With the website URL ‘irunwithgoats.com,’ how can you go wrong?The Greater Omaha Area Trail Runnerz started in 2012 with Omaha’s first ultramarathon, the GOATz 50K. Right now, they’re working to bring more trail races to the Greater Omaha Area, promote the use and upkeep of local trail systems, expose the natural beauty of the Greater Omaha Area and support like-minded, local organizations.
Henry Bickerstaff lives in Alva, Oklahoma, which is seven hours away from Omaha—but met a friendly GOAT runner at the Lean Horse 50 miler, and began running with the GOATz whenever he was visiting his daughter, who lives in Omaha. “I now have more trail-running Facebook friends in Nebraska than I do in Oklahoma,” he says.
Events include the Ramblin’ Runners Redundant Run, also known as the Dizzy Goat 3, 6 and 12 hour runs, co-hosted with Angry Cow Adventures—and the GOATz Trail Runs, which offer many race distances between 5 miles and 50K. Members volunteer at local events (such as the “GOATz Motivation Station” at the Omaha Marathon), support local trail races, and hold free, casual runs like their “Taco Tuesday” runs and weekend group outings.
Member Rave: “Even though we’re Flatlanders…we still love the mountains and hills and travel to Leadville, Bear Chase and other events. Kaci Lickteig (numerous ultramarathons winner this year) is active with this group and supportive of everyone in the group!” –Adama Anderson
11. Runners with Attitude
The members of this Canadian club think of each other as a supportive, extended family. Club leaders Lynne, Rob and Mike have established a spring trail-running clinic to help runners prepare for gnarly local trail races like the Northern Alberta 5Peaks Trail Running Series, the Blackfoot Ultra, the Sinister 7, the Death Race and the Grizzly Ultra. The clinic takes members on hilly mountain runs around Edmonton’s River Valley and includes informational speakers, yoga classes and access to the club’s famous potluck dinners after weekend runs.
The group hosts evening tempo runs during the week and long runs on the weekends—even in extreme Alberta winter weather. At Thanksgiving, they host a turkey trot where every member donates Thanksgiving meal items to less fortunate families in the community.
Member Rave: “The trail runs are good for the body, but fellowship and food afterwards makes trail running with RWA rock!” –Rita Astalosch
Photo submitted by Laura Howard
Somehow, Rochester and the Finger Lakes region made it all the way to 2012 without an official trail-running club. So, four area friends with a passion for trail running launched TrailsROC to foster community among runners in the area, as well as help build new trail systems and establish affordable, fun local races. The group accepts any interested member (for free!), and there are no qualifying standards or other restrictions.
By harnessing the power of social media to keep runners connected to one another, TrailsROC has built its enthusiastic membership base rapidly in its short existence. Members often spend their weekends doing trail building and maintenance, and the profits from race events put on by the TrailsROC crew benefit local trail systems.
The group also sponsors Tuesday night Trail Trots, Thursday headlamp runs and a handful of low-key races on local trails, including a “Troubled Turkey” race on Thanksgiving and a winter trail festival (WTF) in December. Recently, TrailsROC coordinated a 5-mile night trail run called “Ready, Set, Glow.”
Member Rave: “In my experience, trail running can be a harder sell to a newbie than road running, but TrailsROC is bringing them out. Last Thursday, for example, a guy showed up doing an 18 min. per mile pace. The gang made sure he finished the run—in the driving rain, in the dark. I could go on and on, but the takeaway is this: TrailsROC is a running club that is good for my community—not just my running community, but my larger regional community that is surrounded by some of the most beautiful trails in the country.” –Andrea Hickerson
Want to learn about more trail clubs near your? Check out our brand new Trail Club Finder!