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Why the Running Community is So Special

by Karl Gruber
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I think one of the biggest things that surprise new runners is the overall camaraderie of the running community. If it is the first time you have ever joined a running club, you will find that the new runners immediately gravitate to each other, especially for emotional support. You will also find that after a while, many of the veteran runners in the club will quietly take you under their wing and give you tips that will help you to become a better runner. With most any running club and even with just one or two of your local running buddies, there is an underlying current of support for each other and general good fellowship. Or as the dictionary defines it…

ca·ma·ra·der·ie n. Goodwill and lighthearted rapport between or among friends; comradeship.

One thing I love about running and the running community is that the playing field is pretty even. You may run a different pace, but it does not matter your socio-economic standing, race, gender, age or your standing in the world. All are welcome —running side-by-side for miles on end together, sweating profusely, encouraging each other. All share the same goal — running from point A to point B as quickly and as well as possible. 

I have run side-by-side for many miles during marathons and training runs with CEOs, school teachers, artists, millionaires, janitors and children — each with the same goal, to run as best as we could. All walls come tumbling down during a run because you each have the same goal, and the finish line looks the same to everyone.

This quote from a Runner’s World article by Aliza Lapierre about her experience running with other female competitors in the Western States 100 Miler is a fine example of what I am talking about. “As the race continued my experiences of camaraderie with the females that I was ‘competing’ against only continued to grow. Comments like ‘We can do this together;' ‘You’re running strong girl, keep it up;’ and ‘It is a gift to share miles with you’ were given and received. All of these spoken remarks and the perceived mutual respect for one another really warmed my heart and fueled my passion for our sport.”

From the same article comes this quote from the female ultra-runner Nicole Studer, “Not many other athletic platforms allow for such connection prior to, during, and post-race. While strong races always leave good memories, it is the camaraderie of the runners that makes it truly special. We have a wonderful sport.”

Such reflections on experiences of camaraderie during a race are a true testament to the joys of running that extend far beyond just the physical benefits. While all sport activities offer joy and benefits, from this perspective, running may be unique.

Another beautiful benefit to the fellowship you experience within your running community is long-lasting friendships. To this day, many people within my circle of friends began as my running buddies first, which then turned into personal friendships that extended outside of our runs together. And these bonds and great friendships are with both the everyday mid-pack runner and elites athletes. 

One of the most famous of friendships formed by elite runners are two icons of the American running boom — Steve Prefontaine and Frank Shorter. Pre, of course, is perhaps the most legendary of all American elite runners, establishing himself as a distance running star at the University of Oregon and then heading to the Olympics to compete for the U.S. Shorter had even greater success as a college runner and then as a professional distance runner, winning a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics and silver medal at the 1976 Olympics. 

They were not only were they roommates at one point but also nose-to-nose competitors with deep respect and admiration for each other. As a matter of fact, after Pre’s very last race — Shorter was in the race, too — Pre drove Shorter home after the race. Shorter was the last person to ever see Pre alive, as he was killed in a single car accident shortly after dropping him off.

The world-wide running community is incredibly special and unique. It really does not matter if you are an 11-minute miler or five-minute miler; all are welcome with open arms, with the most amazing support system you could ever ask for. Whether you have a regular running buddy who is a mentor, running club coach, or veteran runner, all you need do is ask if you need some running help or advice. And don’t be surprised if you end up with a couple new friends for life! 

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