Beware – you can “catch” running

Last updated: 19-Jul-18

By Alice Morrison

We don’t know if this is good news or bad news, but a new study has just revealed that running is, in fact, contagious. We already knew it was addictive.

In the study, which was published in Nature Communications, researchers from the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts, recorded the daily exercise patterns, geographical locations, and social-network activities of more than one million people, who ran more than 350 million kilometres over five years in total. (S. Aral and C. Nicolaides Nature Commun. 8, 14753; 2017)

It is all about social contagion and it is no surprise that the scientists found that social media and sharing of running exploits is very important for runners. It stimulates competitiveness and people run more when their peers run.

There were some very interesting, more granular, findings. From this study, it is clear that gender plays a big part in social contagion. It was found that women are not at all influenced by men but that men strongly influence men and women moderately influence both men and women.

Perhaps surprisingly, the study also found people are more influenced by those performing WORSE than they do. It spurs them on to stay ahead of the competition and to keep “winning”. This is more of an influence than the achievements of elite athletes.

As the study says, “In the context of exercise, a debate exists about whether we make upward comparisons to those performing better than ourselves or downward comparisons to those performing worse than ourselves.

Comparisons to those ahead of us may motivate our own self-improvement, while comparisons to those behind us may create ‘competitive behaviour to protect one’s superiority’. Our findings are consistent with both arguments, but the effects are much larger for downward comparisons than for upward comparisons.

So, now you know, there really is a “running bug.”

For more,  check out the full study in Nature Communications.

"the study also found people are more influenced by those performing WORSE than they do"

Like what you read?

Click here to sign up for more

Related news

Interview with Dr Thomas Giles

Last updated: 06-Nov-18 Background Thomas Giles is a consultant cytopathologist at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and an experienced ultra runner. He began ultra running

Read More »

Latest news

MIUT 85k Race Report

MIUT 85k Race Report I want to share my experience of the MIUT 85k as a novice Ultra-Runner – what my background is, how I prepared, how

Read More »

SEARCH

Filters

Distance
Distance - slider
0KM500KM
Entry Fee
Entry Fee - slider
010000

DATE SEARCh

Date Range

Global - Virtual

Elevation

A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for

For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Elevation

An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for

Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Brutal

Elevation

Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude)

Suitable for

Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Expert

Elevation

Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat)

Suitable for

Experienced runners who have completed at least 4 ultras in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.

Advanced

Elevation

Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.

Intermediate

Elevation

Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.

Beginner

Elevation

Very little change < 500 metres

Suitable for

First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.