Founder of Running Mums Australia (RMA) and Menai parkrunner Nicole Bunyon found her community after training for her first marathon and shares tips on how you can find yours.
When I look back to my younger years, running around my neighbourhood with nothing but myself, my cares and troubles, or my dreams and visions it is hard to imagine the change that would happen within me when I would reach my 20’s and 30’s and find my tribe.
Those years of running solo were a selfish pursuit if I look at it honestly. I ran to clear my head, to de-stress, to stay thin,…. too thin. I ran for mostly all the wrong reasons. I didn’t really have the joy that I have now as I run with so much more freedom in my mind and body, and the sense of adventure that I have found if I had not found my community.
When I reached my early thirties and wanted to try for a half marathon and later a marathon, I only had my husband and a few close friends to share that experience with. Long training runs were done solo as I tag-teamed with the hubby and I would come home spent or exhilarated, and wished that I had someone to share those feelings with or ask a million questions to. Often I would just look to the internet for the answers, but I didn’t know any of those people personally that I was gaining advice from.
When marathon race day came, I lined up in the corral. A lonely girl in a sea of thousands, with hubby cheering me on from the sideline. I had a plain singlet, no logo, no branding, just me. And that was okay then. I didn’t know what would transpire.
I pushed through the marathon, highs and lows and got to the finish line where my family greeted me. They were my biggest supporters at the time and I threw my hands in the air and cheered as I went past. I had done what I had set out to do. All by myself.
Weeks passed and no one really cared anymore. But I was on such a high and wanted to share with someone who really cared and felt what I felt when I talked about running and the joy I had found. So with no one but myself, alone on the couch I started a Facebook group, Running Mums Australia. Or then, Aussie Running Mums.
I invited a few women I was following on Facebook “pages” of their own to join and before I knew it we had a community of women.
That community then grew, then grew some more, then exploded! Literally into thousands over the years. Currently it has just under 39,000 members.
People would probably think that it just “happens by chance”, or you “get lucky”, or “it’s just a Facebook group”, but I wouldn’t see it that way.
A lot of hard work goes in to make RMA a safe positive space so that when people do join our community, they feel welcome, connected and supported so that they “belong” and stay. It has literally changed thousands of lives, connected thousands of people and been a catalyst for change in women’s sport in this country. I see every day the impact it has from the sidelines of events, the discussion on our Facebook groups pages, our articles from members, the emails sent to me, brands and events that want to work with us and the images behind the branding. It is not by chance this community came about. It is because it was needed. Women needed it, and want it, and felt welcomed into it.
So, how does one choose their community? There are a few things to consider when looking for a community for you to belong.
Find a group of people that you know share a common interest. For me, the interest had to be that they loved to run. I also wanted a community of women, and lastly I wanted a community of mothers, because we all get what it means when we have to juggle the roles that mothers wear, especially in the midst of training and achieving our goals.
Now that I have my community, it has actually brought me into an even wider community, which is the general Australian running community. People know me, and I them because we share this passion. I don’t believe that being ‘insular’ or ‘separate’ communities is good. We can work together to be the best wider community that we can possibly be. How good would the world be if we all worked under that thinking?
So now when I reach a finish line, or dream a dream, my experience is so much more different than 6 years ago. My experiences are richer. My friendships stronger, my goals loftier. I want to guide my community to believe that they can achieve anything they set their minds on, and that together we can accomplish so much more than if we were alone.
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