I’m an avid Runner’s World reader and have been for many years. Each month I will pick one article from the magazine (suggestions welcome!) to discuss and we can kick around thoughts, opinions and reflections. We’ll stay one issue behind the most current so that non-subscriber’s can read along on the RW website. It’ll be like a book club, except less Jane Austen and more sweat. So grab a cup of Joe or tea (see, it is just like a book club!) and jump into the fray!
December 2012 – Does Social Media Mean Better Running?
My, my, what a germane topic for a blog! I finally got a chance to read the December issue on holiday break and was immediately drawn to this article. Before even reading a single word, I was already thinking “yes!” and by the end I was still sticking with my answer.
As the article points out, there can be drawbacks – perhaps a person is spending so much time attending to their social media sheep that there is less time to actually run. Many runners also use their time out on the roads or trails to disconnect and by updating various sources – like dailymile, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and forums – they lose that precious downtime. But you know what I say to that? Hogwash! Or at least I would if this were the early 1900s!
For me, running brings such intense pleasure that I cannot imagine that Facebooking/blogging about running would ever deter me from actually getting out there (and so far, that has not been a problem!). For that matter, there is very little that deters me from running – injury is probably the only thing and even that I accept very reluctantly. Furthermore, I feel more connected because of these outlets – I don’t take my iPhone with me when I run and spend plenty of time communing with nature/talking to real people/getting lost in the madness that is my mind while clicking off the miles. But before and after? Big fan of chatting it up online about plans of what is to come and lowdowns of what came.
I am one of the masses that feels that social media brings another dimension to the experience that is running – it’s sea salt on a caramel chocolate (mmmm, can you tell I am still thinking about Christmas goodies?). For a sport that by its very nature can be a meditation on solitude, social media allows us to connect to one another in ways that would otherwise not be possible, especially among far-flung friends. As much as I enjoy sharing my running adventures with you all on the blog, what I heart even more is hearing about yours. It’s why I started Cape Island Runners in the first place.
I love the dichotomous nature of running and its shape-shifting ability to be both a group activity and an individual one, sometimes at the same time. It is not a coincidence that every single Cape Island Spotlight interviewee has answered the question of whether they prefer running alone or in a group with the response “both”. The running alone part is easy – lace up, hit start on the Garmin and away you go. But the social aspect? That can be a tougher nut to crack. You have to find people to run with, figure out where, when and what pace you will go and fight anxiety that you will hold your new running bud back. It’s not as if you can just see someone running on the opposite side of the street and sidle up to them with a clever pick-up line – although maybe I will muster up the courage to try that one day! Because it might be worth the risk – running buddies add color to my world that I would not trade for anything.
This is where social media comes in handy. Just looking at my Facebook feed, I see a number of examples – the Lady Runners of Parvins, the Zoomers Running Club, the Jersey Shore Running Club – of groups that post on a regular basis about events where they encourage people to join. I have rekindled friendships with people on-line because of our joint love of the sport (Hi Sherry!) and formed completely new relationships that have translated to real-life meetings (Hey Bel!).
The timing of this article was also a neat coincidence because I recently have had conversations with a few friends who are in the process of building their own little houses of running. They have expressed some concerns that their posts on FB and elsewhere might come off as bragging or fishing for compliments. Based on the number of positive responses they get to their posts, I think they need not worry! But just to drive the point home, let me please be clear that I LOVE reading your posts about workouts, races, what went right and what went wrong. I love hearing how your bodies and minds are changing and responding and how you felt at the end of a run – be it elated, relieved, exhausted, invincible or anything in between. I especially love how you all say you are not “real runners” despite logging miles week in and week out. New flash – you are as real as it gets!
As anyone who has run a big race knows, encouragement from spectators (friends or strangers) can fuel us to our best running selves. I think the same is true of social media – your real-life and virtual friends are here to encourage, cheer you on and help move you forward to the person you are striving to be. We are social creatures, dependent on one another for love, support and feedback. I applaud you for even taking the initiative to get out there, because I remember how hard those early days were, and am here for you every step of the way of your journey. It truly warms my heart to see people try running on for size, see it fits and decide to take it home.
So, yes, I do think social media means better running in that it makes it more enjoyable, which is the whole point to begin with! We can more easily exchange information (about gear, nutrition, races), be part of a super fun community and feel inspired by others successes to overcome our own challenges. Plus, how else can we share, uh, interesting photos of our hard-earned blisters (*cough*, Lil Sis,* cough*)?!?!
What do you think? Does social media make us better runners?
Have you had any negative experiences or see any drawbacks to social media that outweigh the benefits?