Doing the legwork

Image copyright Maddy Savage Image caption Renan Keraudran says it is easy to talk business while on a run

If you are looking to boost your career, perhaps all you need to do is put on a pair of trainers and start jogging.

Once considered a rather solitary pursuit, running has in recent years become an increasingly sociable affair.

Aided by social media allowing people to connect far more easily, an ever-growing number of running clubs and events are springing up around the world.

And as more people travel overseas for business, or move abroad, the sport is becoming a popular way for people to make new contacts around the planet, or even secure a new job.

"With running, a lot of people think it's something that's just about you and yourself, and that's it, but that's not actually the case," says Renan Keraudran.

The 28-year-old Frenchman works in marketing, and often travels overseas. When he is working abroad he joins up with a local running club, most recently the Canadian group East Laurier, which is based in Montreal.

"We had a run and a beer together, and they introduced me to some more people," says Mr Keraudran.

"You start talking about running, and then you start talking about business, and of course with some people you even get a true friendship."

Image copyright Jan-Phillip Beck Image caption Bridge The Gap is an informal global movement of likeminded runners

Mr Keraudran was speaking at a windswept beachfront bar in Barcelona, where more than 100 runners from across Europe were chatting over plates of steaming seafood paella the night before the city's recent 17,000-participant half marathon.

The dinner was organised by members of Bridge The Gap (BTG), an informal global movement that brings together urban running groups from around the world through parties and Instagram hashtags.

Founded in 2011 by New York club NYC Bridge Runners and London's Run Dem Crew, people who attend BTG events typically work in creative or lifestyle industries, such as music, media, fashion, or sport and fitness.

"It started out as a way to make people that thought running wasn't cool change their perspective, and get some balance in their lives," says Cedric Hernandez, co-captain of NYC Bridge Runners.

"We didn't know all this would happen, but we've even had marriages through the movement.

"We've had people putting each other up for free in their apartments all over the world, and on the business side we've had photographers get signed up, people have gotten digital work or video [commissions], or even jobs with corporate brands as ambassadors, where they get paid to travel to different cities."

While global estimates of recreational runners are hard to come by, it is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of exercise in many countries.

In England almost seven million people now run at least twice a month, while the number of Americans participating in running events quadrupled between 1990 and 2013.

Image copyright Maddy Savage Image caption A growing number of people are participating in running events

Alongside the BTG movement, there are also more formal organisations co-ordinating events around the world, for a wide range of abilities.

Parkrun, which launched in a suburban London park in 2004, now hosts free 5km (three mile) runs on Saturday mornings in 15 countries, marshalled by volunteers.

Most major sports brands also organise free regular training sessions alongside competitive races. Nike's online running community, Nike+, has almost 17 million Facebook followers worldwide.

Samuel Hedberg, a programme director at Swedish training and business support firm Hyper Island, says that running "rallies people to come together" in an age when they are otherwise just chatting over social media.

"Running is a community that brings people together for real," he says.

Image copyright Jan-Phillip Beck Image caption Bridge the Gap members also hold social events

He argues that while traditional business networking events can be elitist, such as business breakfasts or golf afternoons, running is far more down-to-earth and informal, and as a result can better facilitate a more open dialogue between potential new contacts, both at home and abroad.

"There is a sense of vulnerability when you run with someone," says Mr Hedberg. "You are put on equal levels, and you are out doing something together that doesn't have necessarily any status involved in it."

He adds that running also holds a special place in an age when growing numbers of people are going freelance and embracing the "gig economy", or becoming a digital nomad who works around the world.

"So I think that the trend is really supporting making new business connections over running, you just need a pair of shoes."

Stockholm-based Australian fitness entrepreneur Dan Paech is among those seeking to benefit financially from the large numbers of people looking to jog with likeminded people when they are working abroad.

Image copyright Run With Me Stockholm Image caption Dan Paech is establishing running clubs in cities around the world

His business, Run With Me Stockholm, organises paid running tours for people visiting the Swedish capital.

"These days people want to do the activities they do at home when they are away," says Mr Paech, who adds that a large proportion of his customers are business travellers on tight schedules.

With a franchise now open in Singapore, and one on the way in Melbourne, Mr Paech hopes to create a global network.

Back at the pre-half marathon dinner in Barcelona, a Hamburg-based event planner is explaining how running friends are helping her to find new clients in Amsterdam, while a British man mulling a relocation to Berlin is working the room for useful contacts.

However, Renan Keraudran says there is much more to being a part of BTG or other running movements than just networking and keeping fit.

"People might think we're just a bunch of people showing off on social media," he says. "But we are a family."

BBC

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks