I joined the cross country team in high school because they had the best looking letterman jackets I had ever seen. At the time I was willing to do almost anything to get girls to notice me. I honestly had no idea what I was getting into. The team I joined had just won the state championship two years in a row. The workouts were brutal and we logged over 100 miles a week leading up to the season with two practices a day. I had never worked so hard in my entire life. The pressure was on us not to lose what the seniors had started and throwing up before a race was common. As a team we never lost a single cross country meet during my entire four years of high school. Eventually I got the letterman jacket with the state championship patches that I’d wanted in the first place. It didn’t help with the ladies but it did give me a sense of pride in what I had accomplished with the team.
After high school I vowed never to run another step again unless my pants were on fire or someone was trying to rob me. Four years of grinding out thousands of miles had taken a toll on my legs and I had developed an intense hatred of running because for me it had become a pressure filled job. Just when I decided to stop distance running it seems that the rest of the world had started. In 2000 there were over 8 million running event participants in the U.S. and by 2013 there were over 18 million. Running shoes alone are a $3.5 billion industry. There are hundreds of books, blogs and magazines dedicated to nothing but distance running. If you include casual joggers who run once per month there are over 50 million runners in the U.S.
Here are five reasons why I think distance running has become the most popular individual sport on earth:
1. Who Needs A Gym?
Have you ever been locked in a room with the sales rep at the gym who wanted to sign you up for a one year membership? Is your credit card being automatically billed for one if not two separate gym memberships that you never use? If you’re a runner you don’t need a gym. There’s no monthly fee unless you prefer running on a treadmill to being outside.
You can get in a workout almost anywhere in the world. All you really need is a pair of running shoes and you’re good to go. The world is also becoming more and more runner friendly with marked trails and paths springing up everywhere. Istanbul recently installed trail markers throughout the city because it’s become such a popular spot for joggers and runners from around Europe.
3. Forget the Weather
You can use bad weather as an excuse not to run but the truth is you can train in almost any conditions. Rain, sleet, hail and snow only make you look like more of a badass when you do run.
4. Calorie Buster
Sometimes it seems like everyone in America is trying to lose weight. There’s no better way to burn calories than through exercise and running one of the easiest things you can do. It’s also extremely efficient burning over 550 calories per hour running at a ten minute per mile pace.
I’ve seen three generations of one family running in the same road race. There are over 26,000 running events in the U.S. each year. This averages out to 71 road races per day. Each event represents a goal to work towards and we’ve never had more opportunities or easier access to road racing events than we do right now.
Recreational distance running has been trending for several decades now and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The number of runners and events seems to double every ten-years. There are few better ways to get your body and heart in shape. Maybe I should jump back on the running bandwagon?
About the Author of “I Hate It… Why is Running So Popular?”:
Trip Albagdadi is a regular guest contributor to the iM Sports Blog. His work has been featured in numerous online as well as traditional print publications.