If you have a habit of running everywhere — and no, in between classes doesn’t count — you’ve come to the right place. With its hills and arbs and leaf-strewn sidewalks, Ann Arbor is hallowed ground for running. 

It’s the birthplace of Alan Webb, national record holder for the mile (a scorching three minutes, 46 seconds), who joined the U-M cross country and track teams in 2001. It’s the former training site of track star Lisa Weidenbach, University class of ‘84, who won the 1985 Boston Marathon and was the last American woman to do so. And it’s been treaded on by Greg Meyer, class of ‘78, winner of the 1980 Detroit Free Press Marathon (in which he set the course record), as well as the Chicago and Boston marathons. 

But you certainly don’t have to be an elite athlete to love the sport, or AA — all you really need is a pair of shoes to find a place among the running community, both on and off campus.

Chances are, you’ve already ran into them. MRun, U-M’s running club, is the largest and fastest-growing student club on campus, with a roster of about 200 undergraduate and graduate members. It’s also the largest club running team in the nation — and one of the most successful. Last year, the women’s team won the club cross country national championships, while the men’s team placed second. 

Though the spirited club is composed of competitive and dedicated runners, MRun stresses that students of all abilities are welcome to join, as there are no tryouts to make the team. Getting started is simple: Just show up and run. The club meets weekday afternoons at 4:15 outside of the Central Campus Recreation Building (CCRB), then leaves for runs of three, five and seven miles. They also meet on Sundays at 10 a.m. for long runs of eight to 12 miles (or farther, if runners are training for half or full marathons — more on that later). However, no practices are mandatory; the decision to run and race in meets is completely up to its members. 

“There are those who are still training to compete seriously and those who show up to stay in shape, but ultimately we go to practice to be around each other,” said School of Kinesiology junior Colleen Conroy, head of MRun’s distance training. “Many of us are still setting [personal records] and running more than we ever have, so continuing to get better is even more incentive to train harder and run faster.”  

For competitive runners wanting to better their times, MRun travels to five college meets in both cross country and spring track seasons, including the national championships. In track, members can dabble in different events, like javelin and hurdles. 

While MRun’s favorite activity is obvious, club bonding isn’t restricted to running. “Every year right before Welcome Week, MRun goes on a three-day wilderness retreat near Traverse City,” said LSA sophomore Ross Pendergast, the club’s Social Chair. “Some running does take place, but for the most part, you get to hang out by the Great Lakes, relax and bond with people that you might not have known well beforehand.” 

The best thing about the running community — in MRun and greater Ann Arbor — is that it’s overwhelmingly inclusive. For a different scene off campus, check out the Ann Arbor Track Club, a volunteer-run club of elite runners and first timers of all ages. Membership for students is just twenty dollars, which includes four weekly workouts and a monthly “Crazy Run” on local trails, along with perks at stores like Bivouak and Running Fit and discounted race entries. 

Fall races in Michigan can’t be beat. With crisp air and hard cider at the finish line, runners can enjoy themselves whether they’re running with a club or going alone. For a huge race with all the bells and whistles, the Detroit Free Press Marathon on October 17th offers distances of 5k to full marathon through the sprawling streets of D-town. And for a small event with serious people, the Run Michigan Cheap Series meets on November 8th to host inexpensive races of 5k to 15k.  

For all runners, this is the year to take the Diag in stride. Just remember not let your stride land you on the ‘M.’

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