Running is a mass phenomenon. Millions do it, millions more will do it in the years to come.
In the United States alone close to 60 million run regularly and this number keeps growing. And the three largest marathons in the US combined (New York, Chicago and Boston) have finisher numbers of 100,000+ every year.
But of course running is not just a US thing. When I was traveling around the world in 2015, I saw running in every country I visited. There are races with thousands of runners all around the globe. And the sport is growing year after year.
But why is this? Why is running probably the most popular mass sport? Why are people not doing other sports in these huge numbers?
The following paragraphs are an attempt to explain.
Running is the simplest sport I can think of. Every healthy human being is able to do it. Just head out the door and put one foot in front of the other!
There’s not much equipment needed as well. If you want to be a hockey goaltender for example, you need to invest a lot of money in equipment. And you need infrastructure.
As a runner you don’t need much. If you think about it, you don’t need to buy anything. Even shoes are optional, although some foot protection is recommended of course. And a road or a trail is available pretty much everywhere if you’re not living on a small boat in the middle of an ocean.
And there’s not much talent needed. The motion sequence of running is learned automatically soon after a little child starts walking. In this sense almost every human being is a talented runner.
So if a non-runner considers to start running, there’s not much that can hold him back. Sure if you’re serious about it, there’s quite some stuff to buy. But you can start with almost nothing and build from there.
As easy as running is, it’s also challenging. Especially if you haven’t been active for years and are just starting out.
But we all love a good challenge, right?
No matter the level you are, you can always set yourself a goal that is hard too achieve. For beginners, that first 5k is a hard challenge. For others, running a 100 mile mountain race is the hard thing they work for.
Having a goal that is not too easy to achieve keeps one motivated. And as for running it’s easy to set yourself a goal that is hard and keeps you going. Just increase the distance and/or pace you want to run. Or switch to a more challenging surface and terrain.
This is probably the number one reason why people start running in the first place. Because it’s darn healthy.
The health benefits of running are countless and I guess everyone who is running for a while, can witness increased help.
For one, running is just awesome to lose weight which is a growing need nowadays. Running burns more calories per hour than any other sport which makes it just perfect to slim or keep a stable weight.
Also your immune system gets better and better the more you’re active. And the fact that running is mostly done outside, the fresh air (if you don’t run in a car-crowded city) even boosts this effect.
And then there are the health benefits on the mental side of things. Reduced stress and a better sleep are just the first of many things that come to mind here. I for example use running as a relief valve after a tough day or a hard week.
These are just some of the many health benefits of running. And the fact that running is one of the healthiest things one can do, brings hundreds of thousand of additional runners to the races each year.
After running for some years, I started to wonder why running is such a mass phenomenon and why humans are able to run huge distances like 100 miles at a time.
I started digging. I got the book “Born to Run” and from there I read many more books, articles and scientific publications on the topic of running.
Reading all this, changed my perspective on running completely. Sure all the reasons mentioned above are still true. But there’s more. Running is just what humans do.
Humans were running for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years. If you look at the human body and how it was shaped by evolution, the endurance running abilities are almost unique in the animal world.
The reason according to evolutionary biologists is simple: Gathering and hunting food. Our ancestors had a great advantage to be able to move forward on two legs and carry as much fruits and other food as possible with their hands.
Also our prime endurance running capabilities enabled us to hunt animals with persistence hunting without the need for any weapons. This opened up new, massive energy sources that helped us become what we are today.
Running is the sport we’re doing since the beginning of modern humans. Running is just what we do!
Endurance running is like a drug. It gives you a runner’s high and it can also be very addictive.
Long time runners probably know what I’m writing about here. An injury or a cold that keeps you from running for a while, are what makes us grumpy fellows.
Once you get used to regular running you’ll have a tough time if you can’t run for a couple of days. Your mood can get pretty bad and you might have other withdrawal symptoms.
I suppose this is because of the hormones that cause the runner’s high in the first place.
For a long time it was assumed that the runner’s high is solely caused by endorphins. It was both related to euphoria and also found in the blood of runners.
However in 2015 a German research group found that endorphins are not the (only) reason and found that endocannabinoids are one of the causes of the runner’s high. So we kind of get addicted to the drugs our own body releases when running.
But I guess this is not the only reason. Once we’re able to run on a regular basis, we see all the benefits that come along with it. And obviously one doesn’t want to miss out on them.