Why Running With a Group Makes You Happier

There are many reasons to run with a group. But the most compelling reason, quite simply, is that it makes you happier.

Ask any dedicated runner why they run, and they will likely give you a list of reasons starting with health benefits and ending with their running community. Running itself is great, but the benefits begin to multiply once you find a group of friends to go with you.

Meaningful Social Connection

Two women walk together as the sun rises.

People are happier when they experience social connection, and running with others helps build genuine friendships. Kathy Youngren of Huntsville (AL) says, “Most of my best friends are runners, so the running community is like family for me.”

Youngren’s sentiment is not unusual. When runners run with others, they have meaningful conversations and endure challenging workouts. Even in bad weather, running with company typically makes a run more enjoyable and strengthens the bond between group members.

"My happiness comes from social connection, trying to help others, and making others feel happy," says Justin Samaneigo, who submitted his story to our Reasons We Run campaign. "I'm a connector at heart, so the Chicago running community has really enhanced my passion to connect with others and also to connect others to each other."

Source of Motivation

Running with others has a huge effect on motivation. Research shows that there are three types of rewards that motivate. The first two are extrinsic and intrinsic factors. New studies show that a third motivation factor — family connections — provides a huge boost as well. Running with others can provide all three types of motivation.

Extrinsic factors could be external rewards such as completing a race. Intrinsic rewards may come from the escape from stressors or enjoying time spent outdoors. And if your running group feels like family, the third type of motivation applies as well.

Running groups provide accountability and support. Other runners understand when you’re having a bad day and will encourage you not to give up. What’s more, you’re less likely hit the snooze button and skip your run when your running friends are waiting for you.

"My running friends keep me going," says Kathryn VonAldenbruck, a Reasons We Run applicant. "We all have ideas that we are all willing to try. We've run one race every month for a year, ran several half marathons together, a couple of relay races, which are my favorite, and even a full marathon."

Even if your running community is online, interactions through Strava provide significant motivation, too. A 2018 survey reports that of 8,000 Strava users, 83 percent are more motivated to work out because of the platform and its online community.

Another motivating factor: The Kohler effect. This is the idea that nobody wants to be the weak link in a group. When surrounded by others, everyone is more likely to push through feelings of wanting to quit. Whether it’s running a few extra miles or going faster in a speed workout, running with friends is likely to bring motivation gain that will make you push harder and get a better workout than you would have alone. Researchers at Kansas State University found that when you work out with someone you perceive as better or more fit than you, you will increase the time and intensity of exercise by 200 percent.

​Fitness Increases Happiness

The link between fitness and good mood is well-established. Going for a run relieves stress and gives us a chance to unplug and escape from the everyday grind.

A 2018 survey by Glasgow Caledonia University shows that of 8,000 runners using the ParkRun and Strava apps, an overwhelming 89 percent report that running regularly has made them happier. They also report that running improves their mental health and body image.

Running provides stress relief and a general sense of achievement and satisfaction. In turn, this leads to gains in confidence and body image.

A Sense of Purpose

The concept of “ikigai” gained attention in the US in late 2017. This is a Japanese concept that doesn’t easily translate to English but loosely means “the thing that makes life worth living.” It describes the challenging pursuit of worthy goals — something that can lend one a sense of purpose. To non-runners, calling running your “life purpose” may seem self-indulgent. But when it becomes a daily practice that improves community, health, motivation, ambition and self-esteem, perhaps the idea isn’t so off-base.

"For the last nine years, the Fleet Feet Peeps have helped me through some of the hardest times, and celebrated with me during some of my greatest moments," says Kelly Horan in her Reasons We Run submission. "I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself when I am running with a group, because each of us is looking out for the other, with encouragement and with empathy."

From the back, a man and woman run side by side.

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