From scenic runs that immerse you in nature to casual jogs that end with a cold beer and snacks, these Wisconsin running groups combine fun and fitness for all skill levels
WISCONSIN—Do you have trouble motivating yourself to get outside for a solo run? Maybe you’re an avid runner looking to make friends with like-minded folks. Either way, joining a running group might be for you. Running groups provide accountability and an opportunity for socializing, and fortunately for Wisconsinites, there’s no shortage of them in the Badger State. We’ve rounded up some of the best running groups throughout Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, and Eau Claire.
Whether you’re lacing up your sneakers for the first time or you’ve got a few marathons under your belt, there’s a group (or several) on this list for runners of all skill levels. Many of these organizations are free—or nearly free—to join and have multiple scheduled events per week and run year-round. Some host women-only runs while others create a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community to exercise together. Keep reading to discover the Wisconsin running groups that are right for you.
Milwaukee Running Group – OMG hosts about 16 runs per week, so it’s easy to find one that fits your schedule. People of all ages and running abilities are welcome to join, and membership is only $5 per year. Runs include the “Friyay” morning run, a Sunday late morning run, and a Saturday long run.
In addition to multiple weekly runs, the group hosts frequent social events throughout the year including summer picnics, holiday parties, trail cleanups, and Packer parties. Members also receive discounts at local running stores. Join the private Facebook group here to learn more.
The Badgerland Striders have been around since 1959, and the group is now more than 2,000 members strong. This established organization hosts a variety of races and running events including free fun runs, track workouts, and a marathon training program. Fun runs are held in various local parks and are typically 3 miles long. Drinks and snacks are provided afterwards for participants who want to refuel and socialize with other members.
The cost to join is $25 per year for a family membership, which includes up to six immediate family members living in the same household. This fee grants you access to exclusive events, discounts at local running stores, and membership to the Road Runners Club of America.
Frontrunners Milwaukee was founded in 1995 as an LGBTQ running group, but supportive non-LGBTQ allies are welcome to join, too. The group meets every Saturday at 9 a.m. and welcomes runners and walkers of all levels. After the run, members typically enjoy coffee or breakfast together.
In addition to the free weekly run, the group occasionally hosts events throughout the year.
If you’re looking for a running group that’s as focused on fun as it is fitness, Brew City Hash House Harriers might be the perfect fit. The group, which describes itself as a “Milwaukee drinking club with a running problem,” is a local chapter (known as a “kennel”) of the international Hash House Harriers organization.
The Brew City Hash House Harriers host a run every Thursday at 7 p.m., typically between 2 to 4 miles long on a trail marked by a “hare” with flour and chalk. “Hounds” follow the trail and are rewarded with beer at the end. There is no membership fee, but each run costs about $10. Join the private Facebook group here.
As the name implies, most runs hosted by Glacial Trail Running Group are done on a trail (but not on glaciers). The group’s bi-weekly Thursday trail run is “an easy-paced, midweek trail run” that typically lasts for about an hour. The group also hosts a Sunday trail run through Kettle Moraine State Forest that’s about 7 miles in length. Membership is $5 per year.
The Women’s Hiking Group for Southeastern Wisconsin was created after the founder commented on another Wisconsin women’s hiking Facebook page looking for someone to hike with and received more than 60 responses from other women hikers. Members of this relatively new, informal group post in its private Facebook group when and where they’d like to hike to see who else wants to join.
The group does a lot more than just hike together, however, so if you’re eager to try new activities with other local women, this might be the group for you. Some events this group has hosted include a book club meeting followed by a walk through a local arboretum and gathering for coffee before attending a presentation on hygge, health, and happiness together.
The Wisconsin Go Hiking Club was created in 1924 to “promote health and good fellowship by hiking.” Everything is run by volunteers, so the hikes vary based on which member is planning and hosting the event. Generally speaking, the distance level of each hike ranges between 2 to 8 miles. All hikes are rated, with one being the easiest level and four being the hardest, so you know what to expect when you sign up.
Newcomers are welcome (and encouraged) to hike with the group once or twice before officially becoming a member. Some events are strictly hikes while others are followed by social activities such as picnics. Certain hikes include sightseeing, like the Layton Blvd Urban Hike, during which participants can marvel at houses on Layton Boulevard, the Frank Lloyd Wright Burnham block, and other unique sites. Event costs are split equally between participants.
If you’re looking for a super-active running group in Madison, the Madison Run Club is a must-join, as it hosts a run almost every day. People of all skill levels and backgrounds are welcome to join and the group is accommodating of novice runners. “We try very hard to make sure no one runs alone because above all we are a social running group, and nobody should be left behind,” the group states on its Meetup page.
Run routes vary in length and location, but the group typically stops somewhere after to hang out—usually at a bar for evening runs or a coffee shop for morning outings.
Nature lovers should consider joining Madison Trail Runners, as the runs are done outdoors on scenic trails throughout the city. There’s a variety of runs to choose from, including shorter fun runs and more difficult training-focused long runs and tempo runs. The group’s recurring Tuesday trail run takes participants through the UW-Arboretum and lasts about an hour. Follow the group on Facebook here.
If walking is more your speed, the Dairyland Walkers might be the group for you. This organization is dedicated to “providing quality, family-oriented, non-competitive walking events in Wisconsin for fun, fitness, and friendship.”
Group walks include the Saturday Walk & Eat, Mid-Week Evening Walk, and Weekday Mall Walks. Walk & Eat events are held year-round while the Mid-Week Evening events take place in the warmer months and the Weekday Mall Walks occur in the cold season. Annual membership dues are $15 per household.
Movin’ Shoes Running Club is supported by running specialty store Movin’ Shoes, located in Madison. The club hosts themed runs every day of the week except Friday, including a Sunday social run, Wednesday speed workout, and Thursday women’s run.
Inclusivity is an important aspect of Movin’ Shoes Running Club, which strives to “connect runners across race, pace, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sex, gender identity, ability, age, religion, non-religion, and sexual orientation.”
There is a $25 annual membership fee, and members can take advantage of a discount on select Movin’ Shoes gear at its Madison location.
Fleet Feet, another running store in Madison (with a second location in Sun Prairie), hosts a variety of fun runs for its community. Each run is designed “for all paces” and is free to participate in.
The Monday 5K is ideal for newer runners or walkers, and the weekend trail run is great for nature lovers who want to exercise at a local park or trail. For those looking for post-run socialization, try the Thursday Pub Run. Participants meet at a local pub, run up to 5 miles, then have the option to enjoy a beverage or order takeout afterward.
La Crosse & Eau Claire
Blue Ox Running, a specialty running shoe-and-apparel store in Eau Claire, hosts a free weekly group run every Thursday at 6 p.m. This run is open to everyone and is typically 3.5 to 4 miles long with an option to add an additional 1 or 2 miles. After the run, there’s usually a 15-minute core workout followed by a casual hangout session. Join the Facebook group here.
La Crosse’s River City Running Club hosts multiple runs throughout the week that vary in length and starting location. The Saturday morning runs typically meet at the La Crosse YMCA while the Thursday evening run meets at a local sports bar.
Club members range from experienced marathoners to social runners. An annual membership is $20, or try a family membership for $30. Follow the group on Facebook here.
If you’re interested in group hiking but don’t want to commit to joining an official club with annual dues, meet up with the Jabberwalkers on one of their weekly hikes. The informal La Crosse hiking group meets every Monday morning to explore local trails. Men and women of all ages can join and there is no charge to become a member.
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