I thought this article was interesting (possible subscription needed). It talks about (but doesn’t attempt to measure) a perceived increase in running during tough economic times (beginning with the first running boom in the 70’s) because it requires minimal equipment and the field of play can be anywhere. The author continues:
But running is not just exercise. It’s a great stress reliever and an inexpensive source of neurotransmitters like dopamine that wash the body with good feelings. In stressful times, running can literally make us happy. Thus, being a runner is both an emotional and biochemical commitment.
As a runner, it’s hard to disagree with this. I am positive that it helps my wife when she works out from a stress perspective. For me, it’s a little of that and a big chunk of “can I push myself a little bit further?”. It’s also a large dose of rewarding myself with food and staying healthy too. Most of my committed running friends, though, have a part of them inside that likes the pain which leads to incidents like the ones detailed below:
All runners have stories, many of them bizarre or off-color. In law school I ran with a world-class, 5,000 meter runner who disclosed he was stoned in the middle of a 13-mile run (apparently a common training technique for him).
At the Olympic trials in Charlotte, N.C., in 1996, marathoner Bob Kempainen vomited a bright green stream of Gatorade on national television, then calmly accelerated (running a 4:44 mile) and sprinted to victory. World record-holder Grete Waitz did her business on the side of the road, then pulled up her shorts and went on to win the 1984 New York City Marathon. Every runner has a tale about a port-a-potty just missed, a coffee that wouldn’t stay down, a blister that burst and filled a sock with blood. We tell the stories with pride, metaphors for our own indomitability.
I can state with confidence that the track I visit on Tuesday mornings is crowded. It’s probably the change in season that has increased the volume, but perhaps it’s a little bit of stress as well.