FORDY RUNS: from a solo London Marathon to a community of runners across the country!

Starting a new athletics or running club in your area can make a real difference to a local community, giving people the opportunity to give our sport a go. This is something which Chris Ford has poured into his running club FORDY RUNS, but he wanted to go one step further than just his locality!

Since their official conception five years ago, FORDY RUNS Running Club has now grown to nearly 50 local running groups across the UK, enabling people of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds to get into running. We recently caught up with Chris to find out more about his club, their growth and how England Athletics has supported them in their mission.

Growing the club

When compared to other long-established running clubs and groups throughout the UK FORDY RUNS is just in its infancy at five years old, however they have certainly made their mark on the running scene:

"The idea for FORDY RUNS Running Club started when I was on my own at the London Marathon, crippled with anxiety and riddled with panic. I looked around and realised there were so many other runners who felt the same and so I took it upon myself to find a way to bring these runners together."

"I formally founded FORDY RUNS Running Club with England Athletics five years ago after our community members asked us to become an affiliated club. Our ethos is all about inclusivity, and there being no barriers to entry so, as well as offering athlete registration, we also allow people to run with us for free, pioneering the hybrid club model. Since this, we have seen our club grow to unprecedented levels both physically and virtually and we expect this to continue as we have partnered with Brooks UK to further support us with our growth."

Creating a community across the UK

With satellite clubs spread across the country you may assume that each group runs in silo, however this is not the case, and FORDY RUNS have created an enthusiastic nationwide community."

"Our affiliated club was formed from a smaller community of runners spread around, so for us forming a community came naturally! We have a thriving online community of 50,000 runners who support each other and come together across the country each week in their respective areas."

"As the group founder, I feel incredibly inspired every week by our runners. Whether it is by Adele who has just completed the Tokyo Marathon, Marissa who was told by her previous club she couldn’t run a marathon and has now completed her fifth, or Mel who volunteers at parkrun every week. Our community is really thriving with inspirational runners who motivate me everyday to get out and enjoy running.

"I also started my own YouTube channel and award-winning podcast which helps to spread our inclusive community message and showcase events we attend. Although the YouTube channel is more focused around my personal running, the podcast has found its very own audience and helps tell the stories of everyday runners which is pretty awesome."

England Athletics supporting growth

One of the benefits of becoming an England Athletics affiliated club is that you can access dedicated support whether through your regional Club Support Manager, with governance and Club Standards, or through various funding opportunities – some of which FORDY RUNS have taken advantage of to support their growth.

"With over 45 local groups (and growing), it is important for us that we have as many run leaders as possible. We were awarded a Club Improvement Fund grant and used this to grow our presence in Leeds."

"We partnered with Leeds Rhinos Foundation to offer a free weekly community-based running club from AMT Headingley Stadium. We used the grant to pay in full for the run leader to manage this group and we are proud to see this now thriving in Leeds!"

"We have also focused on getting our seven Club Standards and making sure we’re a safe and enjoyable place for everyone to run together. Throughout our growth, it has always been important that we lead the way for other large running clubs with the correct governance."