Run Clubs Are Having a Moment: This Philadelphia Group Supports People in Recovery

Jump to a section
Expand list

In recent years, running clubs have become a popular way for people to connect, stay fit, and find a sense of community. Among these groups, one stands out for its unique mission and inspiring story: the Recovery Run Club, founded by Kellen Matthews earlier this year. This Philadelphia-based club is not just about running; it's about recovery and resilience.

The Birth of Recovery Run Club

Kellen Matthews knows firsthand the struggles of addiction. His journey began with opioids at the tender age of 13, starting with prescription drugs like Percocet and escalating to powerful IV opioids such as fentanyl and heroin. Despite multiple attempts at rehab, it wasn't until Matthews discovered running that he found a sustainable path to recovery.

During one of his rehab stints, a doctor mentioned that running could produce a high similar to that of drugs. Intrigued, Matthews decided to give it a try, even though he was far from being in good physical shape. "I was smoking at the time, my diet was awful, I was in no shape at all to start running," he recalled.

Matthews started small, running up and down a driveway at the facility. Gradually, he built up to a mile. Once out of treatment and living in a halfway house, he made running a daily habit. What began as a simple attempt to find a new high turned into a life-changing passion. Now 32 and seven years clean, Matthews has completed several marathons and 100-mile ultramarathons, and even clocked an impressive 2:43 at last year's Philly Marathon.

Building a Community

Matthews didn't keep his running journey to himself. Over the last couple of years, he shared his story on Instagram (@kellenrunsphilly), inspiring others with his transformation. In March, he took his mission a step further by creating the Recovery Run Club. This monthly meetup is open to anyone in recovery, whether from addiction, abuse, eating disorders, or other difficult experiences.

"It just gives these people a space where it's OK for you to be honest about what you're going through and be accepted by a group of people that are going through something similar," Matthews explained.


Stories of Resilience

One of the club's regulars is Josh Holi, who found running as part of his recovery journey after serving five years in federal prison for attempted murder. Starting over in his late 20s, Holi faced many challenges but chose to focus on self-improvement. Now a software designer, he credits running and the Recovery Run Club for helping him stay on track.

"I think it's just a fresh reminder to keep going," Holi said. "Having this club and these meetings is a good way to fill your cup back up and understand even though there are going to be hard days, we’ve got to press forward."

Another member, Juan Degro, uses running to maintain his sobriety. After years of struggling with alcohol, Degro has been sober for six months—the longest stretch of his life. He finds strength and motivation in the community he's found through the Recovery Run Club.

"To see people just getting out and just fighting for it, it’s encouraging for me because I struggle with a lot of anxiety and depression," Degro shared. "It helps me give myself a little more grace. I see that I am trying, that we are trying. I’m not alone."


A Growing Movement

The Recovery Run Club's impact is growing. At a recent meetup on the Ben Franklin Bridge, more than 30 people showed up, the largest turnout yet. Matthews begins each meeting by asking participants to introduce themselves and share how their recovery journey has impacted their lives. This openness fosters a sense of camaraderie and support among members.

For Matthews, running provides a tangible sense of progress, something often elusive in the recovery process. "It made me feel like I was working toward something," he said. "Recovery's not linear, by any means, and it's hard to have a feeling that I'm getting better. But with running, I was always able to escape and feel better."


Looking Forward

Matthews and his wife, Cass, are now full-time content creators, using social media to spread their message of hope and recovery. Matthews hopes to reach more people early in their recovery journeys, offering them the support and community he wished he had found sooner.

For those hesitant about joining the club, Matthews has simple advice: "The hardest part is just showing up. Once you’re there, we’ll take care of the rest."

With the Recovery Run Club, Kellen Matthews is not just running for his life; he's running to save others.


Find lasting sobriety at Avenues.

Call us anytime. Seriously.


Fully covered by
most insurances

Inpatient and
outpatient options

10 locations
across the US

I can't talk now—call me later Does my insurance cover this?

Check your insurance

We received your insurance request!

We will get back to you shortly. While you wait... you may find our resource blog helpful. Take a look below: