We’ve done numerous pieces on athletics, particularly running and we wanted to look at the key differences between running and other sports and disciplines. We’re not talking about the goals that participants are supposed to achieve, those are pretty much obvious. We’re concerned with conceptual differences here and it’ll be interesting to see what makes running unique. If you’re part of our Runner’s Tribe, you are probably aware of the things that we’re going to discuss, but this is a chance to read a structured account of the nature of running as a sport. 

Key characteristics of running

There are no miracles in running, there are no surprises, even though a favourite can lose the race, when that happens it is very easy to see why and how. It is all about hard work and endurance with running. You can’t come to a race unprepared and achieve better results than your competitors. Everything is researched and the facts are known, but it is extremely difficult, you need to give up on a lot of things to be a successful runner, and only the most dedicated and most hard-working athletes manage to reach the top and win races. Yes, talent and genetics play a role, but you can come near to being successful without years of hard work.

Every runner knows what they need to do to win the race. And no, we don’t mean running faster than the others, that’s a given. In sports like football or basketball, it is a lot more difficult to lay out a plan, mostly because you can’t really predict what the opponents are going to do. Other sports are a lot more dynamic in terms of that and there’s always an element of surprise. 

Running against football

Take football for instance, or soccer as they call it in America. First of all, you have 11 people running across the field, and all of them must work as part of a team, together and then there’s also a number of coaches, doctors and a manager who needs to develop a strategy and a game plan and try to coordinate all his players to play as a team.

But that’s just regarding what is happening on the pitch, there are so many aspects of the game that don’t actually take place on the field. Take transfers for instance, there are a lot of elements that can’t be controlled and predicted. The transfer market is a lot like a game of online bingo

No age or gender barrier

But what we said above doesn’t mean in any way that running is easier compared to other sports such as football and basketball. On the contrary, endurance is what makes running a lot more challenging from a physical perspective. Especially when it comes to running marathons, it takes a lot more than having fast legs. We already did a piece on the ten key marathon training sessions that are used by champions. 

One great thing about running is that you don’t have to retire once you reach a certain age, you can keep on running, albeit at a lower pace. Still, there are many runners who are still very active and quite successful in their 40s or 50s. Running is one of the few sports where both men and women can participate in the same event and run side by side, despite the fact that official races are men only and women only, respectively. Here’s an interesting piece on why running is the most democratic sport.

There’s one more thing that’s worth mentioning. You need to be a good runner to be good at a range of other sports, such as football, basketball and pretty much every ball sport, especially contact sports.