Your Running Friends Can Make You Happier. Here's How.

Two runners high-five while another runner looks on.

Humans are social creatures. Even if you’re an introvert, positive social connection is vital to health and longevity, while loneliness can be devastating to your well-being. Your fellow runners can provide a healthy social outlet and hold you accountable to your goals. Here are six reasons how and why running friends can add more meaning to your life.

1. Running is a low-pressure way to meet people

Making friends as an adult can be difficult. Whether you moved to a new city, or you’re just looking to meet people, joining a running group is an easy way to make friends. It gives you a simple, common goal to work toward, and plenty of undistracted time to get to know each other. Many group runs set off from a coffee shop, a bar, or your local Fleet Feet, giving you a place to mingle afterward, and catch up with folks who run in a different pace group.

Two women smile as they walk in the park.

2. Running forces you to focus on the present

You hear it all the time: As a culture we are more distracted than ever before, to the extent that our attention spans are changing. While you may think you’re good at multitasking, the reality is that nobody really is. The most meaningful social interactions are the ones in which you give your full attention to the other person in your presence, and vice versa. When you run, even if your phone is with you, it gets put away. You simply move forward with your running crew and focus on the conversation and the task at hand.

3. Your running friends understand you

Your running friends know the tummy troubles, the achy muscles, the euphoria of a workout completed. You don’t have to explain the excitement of finding the perfect electrolyte drink or the best-fitting shorts because you are all on the same quest together. What’s more, running is so much more physical than many activities we engage in with others. As a result, we tend to get comfortable sharing things we would otherwise exclude from polite conversation. It’s not weird to pee in the woods during a group run, or to blow a snot rocket (as long as you don’t hit anyone). Your friends understand and probably find your quirks endearing.

4. Running occupies the “monkey mind” and helps you connect

Even when you aren’t looking at a screen, it can be hard to slow down your thoughts. The “monkey mind” refers to the aspect of thinking that is connected to your ego: the easily distracted inner critic that can interrupt creativity and sharing. Running can act as an effective distraction for this part of the mind, allowing you to connect with others more deeply. If you are running in a group at a comfortable pace, it’s often easier to go deep into conversation and connect with friends in a more meaningful way than you otherwise would.

5. Endorphins help you bond

In the book “The Joy of Movement” by Kelly McGonigal, McGonigal explains how endorphins released during exercise help us bond with others. The connection, she writes, "can be experienced anytime and anywhere people gather to move in unison." What’s more, when you face a challenge together, like a tough race or workout, you build memories and share experiences. Running can help you find a romantic partner, too. A 2004 study suggests that the physiological arousal you experience when exercising can increase feelings of satisfaction and attraction to the person you’re working out with.

Two runners high five on the track.

6. Your running friends can make you a better runner

It’s well-established that running with friends makes you more accountable. You’re more likely to show up for an early morning run in the cold if you know someone is counting on you. Another piece of the puzzle is some good old-fashioned peer pressure. Known as the Kohler motivation effect, members of a group will work harder together than they otherwise would alone. There are two main reasons for this: First, when you’re a member of a group, you don’t want to let your teammates down. Second, you don’t want to be seen as the weakest link. These psychological mechanisms mean that when you run with others, you’re more likely to pick up the pace in a speed workout, or run longer than you would by yourself.

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