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Shortly after welcoming a baby girl into her life, Pam Burrus, once an avid runner, felt the itch to get back out on the road. “I’m always going to identify as a mom, but you lose a little bit of yourself sometimes, and you just become so-and-so’s mom,” Burrus says. “Running is a way to get yourself back.”
So, together with a couple of friends, who were also new moms, Burrus started slow by walking and pushing her baby in a stroller. Then, one mom signed up to run a 5K. And then another joined. Pretty soon, they had a regular group of moms who would meet up to run—and commiserate over breastfeeding and last-minute diaper blowouts.
Eventually, it occurred to Burrus that other moms would benefit from a running group, so she decided to create a venue where women could find and create groups in their area. After brainstorming several possible names, Burrus, formerly a graphic designer, settled on Moms RUN This Town, and set to the task of building a website.
Fast-forward seven years and Moms RUN This Town now boasts more than 1,200 chapters and 80,000 members worldwide, with chapters sprouting up in faraway places like Germany, Sweden, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
“It just kind of took a life of its own,” Burrus says, “and I think it’s because there are so many other moms who were runners before and are just trying to get back into it, or they want an identity outside of [being a mom].”
When you’re a member of Moms RUN This Town, you never have to run alone. And though chapters vary—with some hosting regular runs and others allowing members to dictate the schedule—having a network of running buddies right at your fingertips makes it harder to skip your run.
“Knowing that my girls are out there running regardless of whether I run or not, it makes me want to go run with them,” Burrus says, “so it’s the accountability and the miles.”
But women find more than running buddies through Moms RUN This Town; they find community. This community is especially helpful for military moms, or moms who have to move their family to another state. “Let’s say I’ve lived here my whole life, and all of a sudden my husband’s job moves,” Burrus says. “I don’t know anybody; I don’t even know which doctor to use. So you could find a local chapter in your new town and not only have instant friends, but also have instant connections.”
These instant friends become invaluable support systems. Whether it’s a sick child, a new move across state—or even international—lines or a bout of postpartum depression, chapter members are on hand to help other moms through the hard times. When one woman’s husband passed away, chapter members dropped off meals and hosted virtual runs to raise money to support her family.
Members also help each other celebrate important milestones. Ashley Rossmeissl, founder of the Fox Cities chapter in Appleton, Wis., enjoys watching the positive interactions on her group’s Facebook page: “It’s a safe space to exclaim, ‘I just ran my first three miles without walking,’ or ‘I just ran my fastest mile ever,’ and everyone just rallies around them,” she says. “It’s such a safe, supportive environment that a lot of moms don’t get. Moms get attacked for pretty much everything that we do.”
The best part? Moms RUN This Town is free. And, according to Burrus, it always will be. “There are so many paid-for services out there, so many mommy bootcamps and stroller clubs. Could I charge a membership? Sure. But I think this is something that should always be free to people,” she says. “There’s nothing fancy about us; we’re just here to run and support each other.”