Nicole Bunyon is the founder of Running Mums Australia, a growing social network for Australian running women.
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 a sense of adventure that I have found, now that I’ve 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 the 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 and the images behind the branding. It is not by chance this community came about. It is because it was needed. They needed it, and want it, and feel welcomed into it.
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So, how does one choose their community? There are a few things to consider when looking for a community for you to belong.
1. You need to choose a community of like-minded people.
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.
2. Choose a community that is recommended.
If the community is thriving and alive, you will know it when you step inside. Is the conversation positive and uplifting? Is the content engaging? Will these people build you up and support your goals? Can you see yourself spending a lot of time with them? Are they inclusive of everyone and do they accommodate for differences within the group? If the answer is yes, then that is a sign of a healthy community.
3. Choose a community that aligns with a cause.
I feel passionate about this as with RMA I use the community that we have built to align with and support various causes each year. When you have a strong audience, and even a stronger network, you can reach a lot of people to create change in your world. Does the community you engage with do this? Do they want to make our world a better place or are they just serving themselves? Communities that take action are healthy communities and tend to support each other and stick together.
4. Choose a community that you can feel comfortable sharing in.
Being part of a community also means being part of an extended family if you like. You should feel comfortable to share your thoughts and experiences without feelings of judgement. Your community should be a good sounding board. They may not always agree with you, but sound, sensible discussion without judgement is best. Does your community help build your character, push your boundaries and help you reach your dreams?
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.
By Nicole Bunyon