Running has grown tremendously in popularity in recent years. No matter where you are in the world, you never have to look very far to find another runner, another race, another club and so on. When I ran back in high school and undergrad, I felt very much like an island unto myself. I had teammates and saw familiar faces at some events, but I can’t say I ever felt a sense of community. That could be due in part to my age at the time, my egocentric world view or maybe it was just the way it was – who knows?

In the relatively short time that I have been involved in the running community this time around (just under two years now) the difference has been incredible. Even in small communities, any running event I have participated in has been very well attended. The bigger events in my area tend to be capped now and sell out weeks or months in advance, which is something that was unheard of back in the 1990’s.

A major reason for this has certainly been due to awareness being raised about health and fitness in general. People are more knowledgeable now than ever before when it comes to improving their lifestyle, even if they choose to ignore that knowledge.

An even bigger reason to me is the growth and overall welcoming attitude of the running community at large. This includes the presences of specialty stores, the explosion of running groups and the access to runners all over the worlds via the internet, particularly social media.

Many people are initially reluctant to join a running group as they feel that everybody else is going to be way faster and not want to be slowed down or distracted by new members. While there are certainly competitive groups or clubs out there, most local groups are specifically looking for new members of all ages and abilities. This helps the sport to grow and also makes for a well-rounded collection of personalities and histories. Although I generally prefer to run on my own, I have really gotten to like occasionally running with others. It’s nice to talk about running and other things while still being active. It’s also nice to be pushed a little harder from time to time or running just for the pleasure of getting out and getting a few miles under your feet.

Locally, the Amherst Striders are located about twenty minutes away and were instrumental in helping me stay motivated. They are extremely well organized and the warmest group of people imaginable. The level of support they give to each and every one of their members is something that I strive to achieve with the Bogtrotters.

Most surprising to me has been the level of support found online through social media, Twitter in particular. In the short time I have been using Twitter, I have connected with runners from all over the world. No matter your ability or experience, people who have never met you before will cheer you on, celebrate your achievements with you and support you through all of your struggles – whether they are directly related to running or not.  It’s also inspirational to see what how so many people are running to bring awareness and financial support to various causes worldwide.

The expertise that I have seen freely offered has been amazing. Even though it is just through a screen, you can clearly see how much people care about the sport and how much respect anyone involved with it. I can’t strongly recommend enough getting connected to the running community in some way – be it locally or online. There are some amazing things to learn, but more importantly there are some amazing and inspirational people to meet!