Taylor Swift inspired me to start a run club and now I never skip a run

Social running is more enjoyable than our name 'The Tortured Runners Department' would have you believe

Six women are running together, all of them wearing sports apparel and sneakers. They are running on grass, behind them is a gravel path and some leafy trees. Two of them are having a conversation.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I started running casually in 2020 when I wanted to get out of the flat during the UK lockdown. But it wasn’t until 2022 that I became a regular runner. After a breakup, I started lacing up my sneakers two to three times a week and began tracking my pace, time, and distance while listening to Taylor Swift.

Regular running delivered lots of benefits, including improved sleep, weight loss and better mental health. However, while I initially made quick progress by reducing my 5K time from 45 minutes to 31 minutes, I eventually hit a wall and couldn't improve my pace.

I decided to concentrate on two things to improve my 5K time: doing a bi-weekly strength-based gym routine devised by my boyfriend and trainer, and creating a new running club.

I felt local clubs were a little too fast for me and I wanted to be able to talk to people while running, so I founded and launched The Tortured Runners Department.

How I created The Tortured Runners Department

The idea was to create a low-pressure, fun running club where I could meet fellow Swifties. Full credit goes to my boyfriend for the clever name, but I put in the rest of the work. I posted in some local Facebook groups to gauge interest and soon had a WhatsApp chat with 85 eager members.

Before I knew it, I was lacing up my Mizuno Wave Rider 27s, loading up Strava, and heading to my local park to meet fellow Swifties. Like Swift’s fanbase, we’ve got a melting pot of characters who show up each week; from university students to new mums and dads, to people returning to running after injury.

Mizuno Wave Rider 27s:

Mizuno Wave Rider 27s: was $140, now $120

I use these sneakers for most of my runs. They're sturdy, firm and durable. While they're usually priced at $140, Mizuno is selling them with a $20 discount at present.

How the Tortured Runners Department is helping me get fitter

1. I never skip a run

When you run independently, it’s easy to make excuses not to go. Having others to hold you accountable helps you stay consistent, and focused on making progress each week, even when the weather is terrible.

2. My breathing is better

In the words of Taylor herself, "I think I can finally breathe". Talking to others while running socially has helped me focus on nasal breathing over mouth breathing, improving the flow of oxygen to my muscles.

3. We go slow to get faster

We run at a steady 6:45/km pace and take regular breaks to make the group as inclusive as possible. Doing more 'easy' zone 2-style runs has helped me improve my pace on solo runs where I push myself to go faster. Thanks to the club, I’ve finally hit that sub-30-minute 5K.

Why I recommend joining a run club

It can be really helpful to surround yourself with friends who have similar fitness goals. You don’t have to feel guilty about choices such as not drinking, or wanting an early night. I’ve also found that my existing friends have joined the running group and I’ve made new ones in the process too!

So if you were thinking of joining a club, or even starting one of your own, I’d strongly recommend it.

Beth Kirkbride

Beth Kirkbride is an NCTJ-accredited freelance journalist and marketing professional, writing predominantly about music and pop culture. Her bylines include Clash, Cosmopolitan, OK! magazine and more. In her spare time, you can find her at the front of a moshpit or pounding the pavement as a keen runner. As a University of Oxford English Literature graduate, Beth is also often found with her head in a book. You can keep up to date with her work on X: @BettyKirkers