It’s easy to understand why a non-runner who is thinking about taking their first running steps might feel they don’t belong in such a club. To a slower runner or a runner with no interest in competition, a traditional running club can feel intimidating. It’s great to see so many clubs around the world now hosting beginner sessions, couch to 5k programmes and generally opening their arms to all abilities of runner. At 261 Fearless however, we offer a completely different approach and focus purely on social running.
261 Fearless Clubs are totally non-competitive, there is no training for pace, speed or distance. There is no preparation for events, no weekly increase in training loads and no splitting of abilities. No one is termed a beginner, intermediate or advanced runner. 261 Fearless clubs are running clubs that don’t have running performance as their main goal. Running is purely the vehicle used to help women believe in themselves. To encourage inactive women to become active and improve their health and wellbeing. To connect, educate and inspire women. To empower women.
Having regular social interactions and a good social network are factors known to improve mental wellbeing. We use running to provide the opportunity for women to experience and develop these. The non-judgemental atmosphere of a 261 Fearless Club allows women to feel safe and able to step outside of their comfort zones. Without the pressure of expectations and performance they feel happier to fail and therefore more confident to try.
261 Fearless Club runs are done at ‘the speed of chat’. Women of different abilities run together so can spend time getting to know each other, sharing experiences and offering words of encouragement. About half of the club meetrun time is spent not actually running. Instead it is devoted to other activities such as running games and drills which superficially appear to be for pure fun but through careful coach training, are delivered to work on developing the important characteristics of a healthy female runner and ensuring the experience of attending the club is a positive one.
Women return each week to socialise, to have fun, to make themselves accountable to their club friends and gradually, often without realising it, they improve their running performance. Whilst the target isn’t for improved performance, women do progress. They find running buddies to run with outside of the club meetruns. Many find, often unexpectedly, that they do have a competitive streak and are encouraged to pursue this and to compete in events outside of the club, some joining more traditional running clubs to fulfil this aim. Finding their self-belief in a women-only environment propels them, with confidence, into mixed gender running environments.
By providing this pressure-free, social running arena, 261 Fearless is reaching the harder to reach women and successfully implementing the support required for effective, long-lasting behaviour change.