Sharon Garcia, center, leads the Royal Oak Area Runners group Dec. 22 in Royal Oak.

Sharon Garcia, center, leads the Royal Oak Area Runners group Dec. 22 in Royal Oak.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

Running groups offer events, support

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published December 28, 2018

METRO DETROIT — William Hill doesn’t just make small talk.

What began as a throwaway conversation for the Farmington resident with his neighbor became a transformative idea that has changed the lives of many people in the Farmington area and beyond.

Hill, the co-founder of the Farmington Brewing Co. Run Club, is partly responsible — with co-founder and Farmington resident Susan Arlin — for why the small, picturesque downtown offers another reason to visit, particularly on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m.

That’s when the group meets at the Farmington Brewing Co., 33336 Grand River Ave. in Farmington, and runners and walkers alike are welcome to join. The group began about three years ago and has been going strong ever since.

“It all started with Susan and I having a conversation in our backyard after running a 5K,” Hill said recently. “Early emails we had indicated that we would be happy with 20 people.”

But they didn’t stop there — hundreds of people have joined the group’s Facebook page and the group in person.

“We just wanted to find a collective group of people who wanted to run, and we enjoy running.”

The group, on a weekly basis, has around 30 people who meet at the FBC, and then they run or walk a 5K throughout the city. During the summer, that number hovers at around 100 people.

“We’re actually noticed because of the size (of our group),” Hill said. Some people notice the group and ask about it, then later join themselves.

There are different routes selected regularly. The walkers tend to meet 15 minutes early so they have a head start; everyone ends back at the FBC for a pint or two.

Arlin said in an email that the group has had an “incredible” 2 1/2 years of running fun “that centers entirely on our community through a noncompetitive Tuesday night gathering.”

She said that the group members come from all over: Livonia, Garden City, Novi and Commerce Township, to name a few. “The relationships that have been built and the friendships that have developed have branched off into numerous events, with group members enjoying their times together outside of the Run Club evening,” she said.

Hill added that he can see why run groups are popular: because of the community aspect and bonding, and because members cheer each other on.

“It’s a very positive kind of environment — it doesn’t matter how fast you are, how slow you are, just matters if you’ve done your personal best,” he said. “Tuesday night is always where everybody comes … and gathers.”

Huntington Woods resident Lori Wraage gathers too.

For the past nine years, she has belonged to a group of kindred-spirit runners and walkers who have formed a community as the Royal Oak Area Runners.

She said the group, now hovering around 200 members, runs together tri-weekly with one main reason in mind: each other.

“The majority of people ... in our group run in the group for the group dynamic,” she said, adding that the group experience can tend to quash the spirit of giving up.

“Say you are having a bad day, don’t feel like running,” she said. “When you are with a group, for some reason it just gives you that little extra push. Sometimes they are having a conversation, and before you know it, the 5 miles are over.”

The group — which has members from Madison Heights, South Lyon, Ferndale, Royal Oak, Birmingham and Berkley — uses as a primary online tool to post when and where things are happening, and even when someone in the group is having a party.

The group meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday nights, and at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Saturday mornings in the Royal Oak area.

On Tuesday nights, they go to Lockhart’s BBQ in Royal Oak for post-run food and drinks, and on Saturdays, they meet at Bean & Leaf Café in Royal Oak for post-run coffee.

On Tuesdays and Saturdays — which have a 5-mile route — the group meets at the Royal Oak Public Library; on Thursday nights — which have a 6-mile route — they meet at Westborn Market in Berkley; Tuesday and Thursday nights always have the same route.

“So it is easy for people who come that are new — it only takes a couple times, then you know the route,” Wraage said, adding that while the group’s physical activities are a great way to stay in shape, the group is an avenue in which everyone has become very close, yet fluid, too.    

“People come and go; we seem to get new runners all the time,” she said, adding that the encompassing group has people of all races and ages.

“Obviously, you form friendships,” she said, adding that they always have a Christmas party, and her social life is heavily influenced by the group. “It’s been a big part of my life.”

Motor City Striders Club President Ed Kozloff, of Huntington Woods, basically lives and breathes running.

As the president of one of the oldest running clubs in the country — the group started in 1959 — he has seen running groups take shape and grow in popularity.

The group meets at locations in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to run.

The group, which he took over in 1975, had about 1,500 members at its peak.

The group’s first race was a 5-mile event held on June 11, 1959, at Belle Isle. The Striders have held over a thousand races throughout the state.  

The membership now is around 100 people.

Kozloff said that the group only meets at races.

“We got down from two dozen races a year to a more slim schedule,” he said. “We do not meet these days to train together; many individuals train on their own to go and run. We used to do that when we were in our heyday.”

He said that part of the reason why the group has shrunk in size and activities is the growth of running stores. Some in the group splintered off to join running stores’ activities and events.

“People will meet with them after work, and they will go out on training,” he said.

Kozloff said that from his viewpoint, there has been a major running boom in Michigan, with groups in “every city and every church organization” putting on runs and women taking the lead in running groups.

“Our club was the first one in the state, and one of the first in the country, to allow women to run in our races,” he said. “The rules that we went by in running in the ’60s and early ’70s forbade women from running in road races.”

He said that running is a good thing, and running groups are even better.

“I’ve seen ... no running clubs to many running clubs in many neighbors, which is a positive thing,” he said.

For more information on the FBC Run Club, search FBC Run Club on Facebook.

For more information on the Royal Oak Area Runners, search their name on Facebook.

For more information on the Motor City Striders, visit