UChicago Runners Take to the Road

The Road Runners, UChicago’s student-led running club, has fostered a unique sense of community among undergraduates looking to stretch their legs.



The Road Runners on a typical run near Promontory Point.

By Blair Penn, Senior Sports Reporter

What started as one undergraduate looking for some friends to run with eventually became the rebirth of the UChicago Road Runners, a club that brings together runners of all skill levels to explore Hyde Park and Chicago’s jogging paths. 

On the group’s Facebook page, second-year Jordyn Flaherty, a member of the current UChicago Road Runners leadership, states that the club has existed since at least 2016 and is a “semi-official RSO… in the process of reorganizing.” 

The club’s revival can be traced back to O-Week in 2021. During the first house meeting for Wendt House, second-year Lucas Berard said that he was going on a run the next day and invited anyone who was interested to join him. 

This initial group of runners quickly started to bond over this activity and, soon enough, social runs within the house were taking place regularly. As the Wendt House first-years started to get more acquainted with other members of the UChicago community, Berard said that he invited even more people to run with them, and the group continued to grow. 

Looking for places to run last year, Flaherty met Berard. “Lucas had a group of runners from his house and individual runners reached out asking about opportunities to run,” she said. Flaherty ran track and cross-country in high school and was motivated to start a running community partly because of these former groups. “The team in high school was a big part of my life, and it was hard to lose that in college. For me, Run Club has been about building a community around running again in college.” 

After the group ran the Chicago Half Marathon together in the spring of 2022, Flaherty saw the potential for what a UChicago running community could be. The next step she took toward establishing a running group was to create a group chat where members could share training plans and schedule packet pickups for future races. “The group chat [didn’t make us] an official club, but people assumed it was,” Flaherty said. 

Second-year Natalia Potente, who joined the group after the Half Marathon and now serves as a “group leader,” added that “some people only run a couple miles, and some people will go a lot longer,” though “people can turn around at any point.” 

The Road Runners meet every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 10 a.m. They typically begin at the entrance of Stuart Hall and run along the Lakefront Trail or around Washington Park. “We usually have different pace groups based on demand and how fast people want to run that day,” Potente said. She also spoke about the amiable nature of the group. “[There is] a very friendly atmosphere,” she said. “We talk as we run and occasionally play music on a speaker.” 

“We don’t have any process of membership. Anyone can come to a run whenever they want,” Flaherty added. 

However, the Road Runners Club doesn’t just lead group runs. One of Berard’s favorite parts of the club is when the group hosts a “speaker and run,” during which a UChicago professor offers a short lecture to the club before joining the group on their run. For example, last winter quarter, Christine Andrews, a senior lecturer of biology at UChicago, gave a talk about exercise and physiology. 

One fond memory Berard has of a “speaker and run” is with Hannah Borenstein, an anthropologist and Harper-Schmidt fellow at UChicago, during autumn quarter. Because of daylight saving time, the group ended up running in the dark following Borenstein’s lecture. “It was just, like, good vibes and lots of good conversations going around, and everyone was chatting and stuff like that,” Berard said. 

Third-year Tanner Baldwin runs with the Road Runners when he’s not competing with the varsity men’s soccer team. He first considered joining a running group when he saw the cross-country team running together. “I got involved in the Run Club community after seeing the cross-country team running around Hyde Park together and figured it must be fun running with a group.”  He then reached out to Flaherty. “She was really welcoming, and pretty soon after we got in touch, we were running together almost every day,” Baldwin said. 

“Your value to the club is derived from your presence alone, not how fast you run,” Baldwin said. “I think everyone in the running community is really kind and we really care for each other.” 

Road Runners has helped cultivate deep bonds beyond just the runs. “Ironically, my favorite memories of Run Club aren’t even while running. The best moments have happened before and after runs,” Baldwin said. “When we go as a group to get post-run fuel from the dining hall, or when everyone talks about their day and what they have been up to before we set out, those are the moments I feel really connected to the community.” 

Baldwin also extolled the health benefits of running. “Run Club keeps me committed to my  fitness, mentally as well as physically. Run Club runs provide a much needed excuse for me to take a study break and relieve some stress. Your body releases natural stress relieving endorphins while running, so it’s a great way to take the edge off of a stressful day.” 

Flaherty expressed a similar sentiment. “Running is a great way to clear your head,” she said. “I enjoy running regularly because it means I get to see the Point and spaces further away from campus and it takes me out of campus and into the community.” 

Furthermore, running with a group has additional social benefits. “Running with someone is actually a really great way to get to know them,” Baldwin said. “If you’re jogging slow enough, it provides a nice opportunity to chat while engaging in a more monotonous activity. If you’re pushing the pace together, hearing the pounding of footsteps and heavy breathing of those around you really creates a sense of a collective striving towards a common goal.” 

Potente also enjoys this aspect of Road Runners. “Getting to talk to people as we run makes the time fly by. I love the people at Run Club. It is such a supportive environment,” she said. 

Berard said that he “really appreciated meeting” everyone in Road Runners. He especially developed a close friendship with Potente through the club. “She is a really cool person and super kind, and also she is going to the Boston Marathon this spring, so she is really fast as well,” Berard said of Potente. “It’s always great seeing her and her smile!” 

Although the thought of running five miles may seem like a daunting task, Potente says that she always “feels more energized after” her runs. “It doesn’t ever feel like a chore,” she said of the Road Runners, “but a break in my day that I look forward to.”