Nike launches neighbourhood running clubs in Toronto
If you're not a runner you might have missed the news. A few months ago Nike launched neighbourhood running clubs in Toronto with four locations around the city. Each club meets once a week and then collectively on Thursday evenings for running-inspired surprise events. So far, there are four clubs, each with a regular gathering hotspot in their 'hood. The Queen West club meets at R Squared Cafe, The Annex one at The Hart House Arbor Room, the Central club at the original Bulldog Coffee and the North Toronto club at the Sporting Life at 2665 Yonge St,
As someone who can barely jog to the corner store, I feel inspired just scrolling through the posted photos of club members flushed after a run. Instructional videos share page-space with news of athlete appearances and nutrition seminars. Runners are treated to post-workout yoga or massage and in short, the run clubs seem to act as a personal trainer.
I wondered how local businesses become locations for these run club hotspots so I asked R Squared owner Reza Yazdjerdi who told me he was approached by one of his regular customers who happened to also be an avid runner. They agree to host the club on Wednesday afternoons (when it's not especially crowded) and Yazdjerdi sets them up with complimentary coffee and tea. It's all part of R Squared's community-minded focus and some free food and drinks (along with the space) seems like a modest investment to convert a growing group of runners into regular - and loyal - customers.
As for the Nike running clubs, they're open to anyone to join and welcome both novice and expert runners to participate in weekly runs and try new routes. The clubs are supported by Nike's corporate marketing team who make sure to maintain a regular presence by bringing by the Nike Test Drive Truck to allow runners the opportunity to try new Nike gear and accessories. Jennifer Dawson, host of the online hub Nike + Runner's Lounge, also notes that "the more runs you attend, the more rewards you unlock." It's an interesting marriage between what some might term a faceless corporation and a ground-level neighbourhood fitness initiative. So far it seems to be working out well for everyone involved.