A recent article in the New York Times, says running may even be socially contagious! The article is about recently published research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management on how runners are affected by other runners on running data collection sites. The article didn't disclose which data collection site was used, but I'm assuming it was one like Strava, Nike, or MapMyRun. Over a 5 year period, researches gathered data from about 1.1 million runners from all over the world. Collectively runners in that time period had run about 225 million miles.
The research showed that similar runners tended to cluster
as friends on the data collection site. Also, if one friend ran more than the
others, then a spike in the others' running was observed.
Basically, members in these unofficial circles would work to keep up with each
other. Weather conditions didn't seem to matter either. If a runner ran more in
one part of the country, a runner in another part of the country would run more
(not necessarily more than the other runner, but more than he/she had previously
run) even if there were adverse weather conditions.
Personally, I use Strava to upload and keep track of my running data. It's been
fun making friends around the country on Strava, keeping track of what others
are doing. Strava (and I'm sure the other sites do it too) also provides
challenges for runners to strive for such as running a certain race distance,
running a certain number of miles in a month, etc. It's all healthy competition
whether it's with yourself or with others. But, nothing, in my opinion, beats
the camaraderie of a real "in-person" running group. While the
online sites provide some incentive to run harder to keep up with your buddies,
a real-life running group provides life-long friendships, support, motivation,
and inspiration that cannot be matched in any other forum. Running is so much
more than Running.
Men seemed to be affected by this more than women. Males were definitely
influenced by what their male counterparts were doing. Males were also
influenced by their female counterparts but not to the same extent. Females,
however, didn't seem to be influenced by their male counterparts, but they were
influenced by their female counterparts.