There is so much more to running than meets the eye. Avid distance runners really are a tribe apart. It is not uncommon for runners to have only other runners as close friends, since it can be difficult to relate to non-runners. In large part, this is because running isn’t just an activity, it is the centerpiece of a very active lifestyle. Sure we can be friends with other athletes like cyclists or rock-climbers(and we sometimes participate in these activities), but only other runners can be our soul brothers or sisters. To runners, sedentary people seem like a totally different species who speak an unintelligible language.
Which leads some of us to ask “how different are we really?”. As diverse as runners are, there are some personality traits we seem to have in common. I’ve long suspected that distance runners tend to be more introverted on average, since running for long stretches of time alone practically requires that you enjoy solitude. Having looked into this, it appears this hunch has some evidence to support it. According to Personality and physiological traits in middle-aged runners and joggers:
A series of personality and physiological tests and measurements were made in 48 healthy male runners and joggers 40-59 years of age (x = 47.3 yrs.). The Cattell 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire showed that the subjects were significantly more intelligent, imaginative, reserved, self-sufficient, sober, shy, and forthright than the general population. A maximal treadmill test revealed the men to be well above the mean for their age in terms of cardiorespiratory fitness. The men who had run a marathon race and the 40-49-year-age group were higher in terms of fitness than nonmarathoners and the 50-59-age groups, but the groups differed very little from each other on personality characteristics. Middle-aged runners and joggers either possess or develop high levels of self-sufficiency and imagination and tend toward introversion in their personality makeup. It is not known for sure if these factors are a result of or a casual factor in their habitual exercise pattern.
Now this is an old study, but it seems accurate enough to me. In a way, the kind of exercise a person engages in is a reflection of their personality, so this isn’t a big surprise. Introversion is often unfairly considered a negative trait(in contrast to extroversion), yet if it correlates with or somehow encourages people to be more active even if they don’t have an exercise partner, this is one big advantage of introversion.
Now if only researchers could do a study on the personality traits of jogglers. That should make for interesting reading!
Update: Last week I managed to run 40 miles, after weeks of very little mileage due to my injury. I am almost fully recovered, I feel only a little soreness toward the end of long runs. The photo above was taken during yesterday’s 14 mile, very hilly run.