We do early-morning workouts, lunch-hour runs between meetings, and runs through the streets in the evening to clear the stress of the day from our minds. It can feel like we are alone during those times. Even if you see other runners around, our paths cross for only a few seconds before we dive back in to our own worlds. Therefore, running can feel individual or even lonely sometimes.
However, running is a reliable friend who encourages us to keep our bodies and minds healthy. Even during our busiest times, we can still be part of the running community. If we cannot make group runs work for our schedule, and can’t find the energy required to coordinate meeting a friend, we are still not alone. Community can always be a part of our lives that provides the joy of connection in the daily hustle of life.
- Enrich Your Running Through Connection
When our training is isolated, like it was at multiple points during the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes difficult to stay engaged. We often forget every other runner is out there with us. While we may not be together physically, we can be emotionally and mentally. We all struggle to push against the challenges of running hard no matter how experienced we are, and if we look around, thousands of other runners are trying to push their way through too.
We are out there reaching for the same finish line, but on our own journey to achievement and fulfilment. Thinking about other runners can give us comfort and motivation. The collective effort and energy are the reasons we feel empowered and strong at the finish line. In 2020, there were no races to shift our perspective, and that shook many of us. We tend to get wrapped up in our own lives which makes us forget there is a world beyond our own dreams and goals. Connection gives us an opportunity to enhance our running experience with just a little extra commitment and investment. It is effort that comes back to us tenfold.
2020 taught us that we need other humans. We need connection and to communicate with those who understand our experience. Service to others is one of the quickest ways to discover our purpose and meaning in life. Building relationships with other runners can help us realize how fortunate we are to be a part of a community. For that reason, giving back to the running community is motivating. This is especially true when we are not hitting our goals.
If we are feeling demoralized that running has broken our heart again, but we can’t figure out why it is not coming together, it is time for a change. Achieving goals and setting new personal bests feels good, but when that love fades, connection is what we crave. That said, getting involved in the community doesn’t have to mess up our training or goals; it can enrich our running experience by giving us the extra push.
- Improve Individually Through Group Experiences
Running with someone who is faster than us, or when we feel tired from a challenging workout the day before, our motivation can decrease a lot. The fear of holding people back might kick in and you might start to apologize for being “slow.” Even the best runners have off days, or days when it’s okay to slow down. We owe our bodies the respect of listening, and taking it as easy when needed. Even when our usual running buddies go ahead and leave us to run at a slower pace.
One of the most crucial parts of this activity is running healthy and strong. It is important to be strategic about running with others and ask ourselves what we want to get out of our runs and workouts. If we are looking for some quiet time, or an easy run to recover from a tough workout, it might be better to skip the running partners and head out for a solo run. Alternatively, if we want to rev up some motivation or have had a long day and need to talk to someone who knows your situation, running with others could be just what we need. Another study noted that if we want an intense workout, pairing up with someone who is fitter (or faster) can level up our workout (1).
It all comes down to listening to that intuitive feeling of what is best for our body at that moment. When we see ourselves as part of a community with ideas and experiences to contribute, we take back our narrative. Whether we’re a new runner or an experienced runner trying something new, we never know who we will impact. Conversely, we never know whose advice could be beneficial to us. Maybe we have a lot of experience in a particular area, but another runner has a different perspective that could add value to our own running.
- Find Where You Belong
Community means coming together because of a shared interest. It then moves beyond that initial mutual connection to form a deeper bond on knowing that we can be ourselves, confiding in each other, and not being judged.
The more runners that feel like they have a place they belong, the more our community can continue to grow and support one another. Community means something different to all of us, but one thing has become clear: We all need some version of it in our lives. We live in a disconnected world, despite always being connected. Nothing can replace the physical and social connections of in-person interactions. Our busy lives make social interaction an easy sacrifice to make, but that has a harmful effect on our mental health. Loneliness engulfs us if we become too detached from people and nature.
Running, as a solo endeavour, has the potential to bring out the meaning and joy through belonging. Finding community that welcomes us with open arms can be the key to unlocking a sustainable future for running and beyond.
- Plante, T.G., M. Madden, S. Mann, G. Lee, A. Hardesty, N. Gable, A. Terry, and G. Kaplow. 2010. “Effects of Perceived Fitness Level of Exercise Partner on Intensity of Exertion.” Journal Of Social Sciences 6 (1): 50-54. www.psychologytoday.com/sites/default/files/attachments/34033/jssarticle.pdf.
Becoming a Sustainable Runner A Guide to Running for Life, Community, and Planet
Tina Muir and Zoë Rom
Header photo by Capstone Events