Here’s How Gen Z Is Making Running Cool Again

20-somethings are ditching the clubs and bars for weekend run club.


Every generation has its own cultural legacy, which is defined by social movements, enduring memories, and similar life experiences. 

Fitness trends have always been a significant defining point for generations. In the 80’s, it was Jazzercise, step aerobics, and neon leotards. For millennials, strength training, #strongnotskinny, and Instagram ‘fitspo’ was made mainstream.

Now, Gen Z is in the middle of making running cool again.

Here's How Gen Z Is Making Running Cool Again 1
Photo Credit: Friday Night Lights

While the surge in running isn’t new (think 1970s matching jogger suits here), it’s undergoing a very distinct evolution. This current boom is propelled by young women who are pushing back against the superficial empowerment narrative of the ‘strong, not skinny’ movement, which is, in reality, dominated by aesthetics over genuine empowerment.

Although running was traditionally associated with weight loss, the Gen Z rebrand sees it as far more than cardio. Runners are finding power in numbers, with Run Club becoming a primary place of socialization for Gen Z, replacing weekends at the clubs and even dating apps.

The New Night Out

One of the most popular run clubs, Friday Night Lights,’ which takes place in Central London and describes itself as a ‘night out,’ is one of many Gen Z-oriented run clubs in the UK and around the world. 

And in all fairness, it’s got everything you’d expect from a typical Friday night out: loud music, hundreds of sweaty 20-something-year-olds crammed together, and all the lights and colors to go with it. 

The only catch? They’re swapping the hangover for a runner’s high.

So Why Is Gen Z Replacing The Night Club With Run Club?

Well, in all honesty, there’s a lot at play here.

The increased cost of living, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, has made a typical night out far less affordable for Gen Z. With fewer Gen Z heading to the bars every weekend, it’s also forced thousands of establishments to close their doors over the last year, leaving the industry in a downward financial spiral.

But above all that, there’s been a wider societal shift in the works.

Gen Z is ‘reclaiming’ their weekends: drinking less alcohol, getting more sleep, and socializing in the great outdoors. With longer working hours and the growing pressures of modern life, youngsters are far less inclined to waste a weekend hungover.

“I used to go out on a Friday and Saturday night. Then I’d be hungover the whole weekend,” Molly Slater-Davison said to Metro. “I wouldn’t move. I’d just stay on the sofa. But now, I want to make the most of my free time. If I’ve been sitting at my desk all week, I want to get outside breathing fresh air.”

Here's How Gen Z Is Making Running Cool Again 2
Photo Credit: Friday Night Lights

“With running, you get the social side of going out drinking – but you can remember it,” she adds.

“You talk to people not because you’ve got some confidence from alcohol but because you want to be speaking to each other. I still drink myself, and a lot of the girls I run with do, but there’s this feeling of wanting to ‘own’ our weekend. I don’t want to be hungover on a Saturday. I want to have the choice to get out.”

According to research from Heineken, Gen Z’s alcohol consumption has dropped 25% over the last four years, while the NHS Couch to 5K app has been downloaded more than 6.5 million times. Additionally, the #RunTok hashtag has over 3.4 billion views, and there are now more than 2,300 parkrun events, a free weekly timed 5K, worldwide.

Here's How Gen Z Is Making Running Cool Again 3
Photo Credit: Friday Night Lights

The New Dating App

Another major reason for the societal shift making run club so popular? The growing disinterest in dating apps.

Gen Z craves authentic connections, something they can’t find through dating apps.

Run clubs give Gen Z the perfect opportunity to meet new people, build friendships, and become part of a community, and once in a while sparks will fly.

I mean think about, running is pretty much an ideal platform to meet that special someone, and here’s why: 

Here's How Gen Z Is Making Running Cool Again 4
Photo Credit: Friday Night Lights
  1. Shared Interest: Both run clubs and dating apps bring people together who share a common interest. In the case of run clubs, it’s a passion for running and fitness. Sharing an interest can form a strong foundation for a connection.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle: People who participate in run clubs often prioritize health and fitness, which can be attractive qualities in a potential partner. It’s a healthier alternative to meeting someone in a bar or through traditional dating apps, where the focus may be less on health and more on other aspects.
  3. Natural Interaction: Unlike dating apps, where interactions often start with a screen, run clubs offer face-to-face interactions from the beginning. This can lead to more genuine connections as people get to know each other in a more natural setting.
  4. Less Pressure: In a run club, the focus is on the activity itself rather than solely on finding a romantic partner. This can take some of the pressure off compared to traditional dating environments, making it easier for people to relax and be themselves.
  5. Community Building: Run clubs often foster a sense of community among members. This supportive environment can make it easier for people to meet and connect with others who share their values and interests.

At the end of the day, the Gen Z running revolution brings people together to create a sense of community. Ryo Yamamoto, co-founder of a New York run club, put it best, “Religion gives you a group of people who are willing to take action and help you at any time, be there in your corner and support you and celebrate you,” she said. “The run club gives you that, too.”

Photo of author
Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.