For anyone that’s part of a running group, you know that running can be a powerful way to give back to the community. There’s something about shared suffering that brings people together. As a result, running tends to unite people rather than divide them. The bonds and camaraderie created through running often produce enduring friendships.
I’ve witnessed this phenomenon while traveling the globe. It holds true across borders and time, regardless of the language one speaks or the color of one’s skin. In a world that sometimes seems so divided, running is a commonality most of us share. It is a great unifier—the most egalitarian of sports.
There are many practical ways to harness the positivity of running for community building. Some efforts can be focused on building goodwill for runners overall, while others are aimed at bringing more people into the sport. Below, a few of my favorites.
4 Ways to Give Back to Your Running Community
Clear litter. Runners tend to be an environmentally conscious lot, given that the outdoors is the place we practice our craft. When running through a local park, why not stop to pick-up trash? It may slow your pace, but varying your movements will challenge other parts of your body during your training.
Smile. Running isn’t always glamorous or easy, but smiling has shown to boost the morale of both the giver and the recipient. Spread those feel-good vibes by smiling at everyone you pass: fellow runners, neighbors out walking their dogs, the mailman. Even better, give a wave or flash a peace sign to people as you run by (hey, I’m Californian).
Plan a fun run. When it comes to getting others together for a run, try something quirky or unusual as a way of attracting participants. For instance, ask that all participants wear a teal shirt or that everyone runs with two different color socks. Simple things can encourage others to take part and make running seem a bit less intimidating. This might sound absurd to some, but effective diplomacy can be funky.
Organize a timed run. For, say, 17 minutes. This way regardless of the pace, the run ends at a specific time—something quantifiable that people can relate to more easily than a set distance. Use the stopwatch function on your Fitbit Charge 2, Fitbit Blaze, or Fitbit Surge to track your group’s progress.
Needless to say, I’m quite evangelical about the sport I love. Running has the ability to transform both individuals and communities. Let’s harness this power to create good, one step—and one teal shirt—at a time.
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