Running can be either sociable or solitary, writes Terry Brennan. Many of us enjoy nothing better than a ‘get away from it all’ hour with only our thoughts for company; it’s one of my own favourite things. But I like the company and sociability that running brings too.
When I first started running I joined a club and was soon at the centre of a very active social scene. There were the twice weekly club nights – meeting up with my new chums, catching up on their recent training and racing adventures, planning our weekend long runs (and the cake stop afterwards), the barbeques after the big local races, the curry nights, the awards nights, the annual training camp. You get the picture!
And then there is the companionship of the road (or the trail). The easy chat over the first mile or so, the snatched conversation as the tempo picks up and the encouraging grunts in the final stages. All to be topped by the post-run solidarity of mission accomplished.
For the competitive among us, jousting with our peers, can provide an extra impetus but more generally it’s the support of your club mates or running buddies that helps you reach your goals. And in that pursuit of new distances, stronger performances and PBs comes a bonding that can be special.
My own club experience was making lots of interesting acquaintances, some great pals and one or two important friendships. So don’t underestimate the social dimension of running. Even when you’re not actually running, our sport can be a powerful catalyst for social interaction. I loved Ira Rainey’s (run director for Pomphrey Hill parkrun in Bristol) story about Roy Hale, a regular volunteer, who turned up each week with his dog Cooper and clearly enjoyed his marshalling role. After six months of sterling work, 77-year-old Roy decided to find out what all the fuss was about and took part in his first run. It wasn’t quick but it was great fun for the recent widower and a perfect illustration of how sport in general, and running in particular, can bring people together.
One of the big aspects of running is events. London Marathon, the Great North Run, Edinburgh Marathon Festival and many others attract huge fields and create amazing ‘on the day’ experiences. Much of the atmosphere comes from the ‘charity element’ – all the humour, colour and drama of the thousands who run for good causes in fancy dress and bright charity vests. Supporters cheer wildly, runners brace themselves for the challenge ahead and everyone comes together in a common purpose to fund hospices, help sick kids swim with dolphins or train puppies to assist the disabled.
I had a brilliant charity experience a few years ago. It was nearing Christmas and a friend was admitted to hospital and faced a big operation. The charity he supported was the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation so while he battled away in a hospital bed, myself and two other friends undertook to run every day in December (Christmas Day, the day of the office party, the day after the office party) a minimum of three miles. We all completed our ‘Marcothon’ challenge, running near on 500 miles between us and raising £2,000. The best part of the experience was our daily updates, regular meet-ups, keeping in touch with our sick pal, and sharing news about his progress and the challenge.
And so it goes on. Whether enjoying the sociability of club or group running, sharing your problems with your regular buddy or joining in a community effort like parkrun or a big event – it’s all social interaction and invariably positive.
Running saves the world again!