Is running a hobby? Or is running a sport? You may be surprised to find staunch supporters of both views. You will also find those who claim it can be both! So, what exactly is considered a sport then? The Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as: “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment”. Does this mean that running is a sport then?
Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used!
Table of Contents
Is Running a Sport: 6 Points
Let’s look at the characteristics of a sport. A sport requires:
- Physical Exertion
- Individual or Team
- A Distinct Field
#1: Physical Exertion
If you have ever run, whether it be a weekly running routine, the occasional recreational jaunt, or the grueling discipline of a long distance marathon race, you can probably solidly answer that running definitely requires physical exertion. Now, does running require skill?
“Skill” is one of the main arguing points amongst supporters of running being a hobby instead of running being a sport. There are those that say running does not require a lot of skill. That perhaps it is not technical, and does not require advanced training or practice to perform. For those that argue that running is a sport, what are the skills displayed?
Skills Required for Running
These skills are possessed not only by runners, but by athletes of many other sports. This shows the interconnection between sports such as soccer, baseball, or football, with running. Running is unique in that it can stand on its own, or be an important component in other sports too.
- Endurance – the ability to perform a physical task for an extended amount of time
- Durability – the ability to maintain and endure physical exertion and strain for an extended amount of time
- Agility – the ability to react to physical changes such as change in terrain, change in elevation, or change in direction
- Coordination – the ability to react to sensory input from different muscle groups for a common output
- Flexibility – the ability to perform at full range of motion
- Power – the ability to increase strength for an amount of time
- Speed – the ability to increase speed for an amount of time
Clearly, running involves some well defined skills. In addition to these skills, to be really good at running, and to run with minimal risk of injury, you have to understand multiple additional layers of running specific skills. It takes skill to understand and practice pacing, stride, form, foot placement and landing, coordination, breathing, running uphills, downhills, and multiple terrains.
Just as in many sports like baseball, football, soccer, etc., there is also a mental component of skills that are involved in running. For example, you have to possess mental determination and grit to train for a long distance race, as well as pull it off on race day. You have to possess mental knowledge of how to adjust pacing, breathing, and stride based on your environment or your body’s output that day.
As in almost every other sport, you can be an average runner without practicing much skill, but you will become a greater runner and witness increased performance with an increased skill level. If you still find yourself doubting whether running requires skill, just ask anyone who has gone from never running to running regularly, or try it out yourself! In the beginning, running can be very difficult and awkward, but as you practice and improve your skills, running becomes easier and more efficient. This is because you are mastering the skills involved in running!
Is there competition in running? The great thing about running is it doesn’t have to be a competition, but it absolutely can be and is! Running is one of the oldest competitions in the world, far predating other modern day sports! Running can happen competitively at your local high school track, at your local 10k organized trail race, at the annual Boston Marathon, or at the Summer Olympics. We have all seen runners compete against each other in multiple different running arenas. Every organized running event has a winner.
There may be those that argue that running is a hobby, because in our daily lives we maybe mostly see our local neighborhood runners on our neighborhood streets, but that doesn’t mean there is a massive competitive world out there for runners who choose to enter that particular running arena. Below are just a few common competitive running events. There are many more in existence in the field of running events. Check out my sister post on getting to know different running distances.
Common Competitive Running Events
- Sprints – examples 400 meters, 800 meters
- 5k’s – 3.1 miles
- Half Marathons – 13.1 miles
- Marathons – 26.2 miles
#4: Individual or Team
Is running a sport because it involves individuals or teams? We have already discussed how running can be an individual endeavor. Your neighbor who runs individually every Wednesday night after work may not see their weekly run as an individual sport, but the track runner competing for first place in their individual event does! Or the ultra runner who has trained for 6 months trying to come in first in their trail race sure will! So running is a sport that can appeal to the individual, and still be competitive. While not every individual runner is actively competing at any given time, many are!
Running is also a sport due to its team nature. Running and/or track and field teams exist all the way up from junior high teams to relay teams in the Olympics, so running is absolutely considered a team sport also!
Is running a sport because it is entertaining? While many runners are considered crazy for running for “fun”, if you ask most runners, they will tell you that running is entertaining! As a runner myself, running is one of the most entertaining things I do for myself! It is brutal at times, but I find great entertainment and enjoyment in running.
Is running entertaining for spectators? I would argue yes! The Boston Marathon is a highly publicized event that is watched each year. Running events are one of the favorite Summer Olympic events to watch. Of the dozens of half marathons, marathons, 5k’s, and 10k’s I have completed in my running career, I can attest to the entertainment that is received and given by the spectators that come out to cheer on runners! The entertainment appeal of running is one of the oldest existing in the world of sports!
#6: A Distinct Field
Finally, is running considered its own distinct “field”? Are there organizations that establish rules and regulations for competitive and organized running? Absolutely! This is fairly obvious to anyone who has competed in or attended a track and field event, or run a marathon. While the field of running is very wide and encompassing, there is established groundwork. If you are a purely recreational runner who is not following any set of guidelines for their own personal enjoyment in running, this may not necessarily apply to you, but the field of running still exists in the sports world.
In summary, it seems clear that running is a sport by all definitions! It checks all the boxes – running is a sport because it:
- Requires physical exertion
- Requires Skill
- Is competitive
- Can be individual or team
- Provides entertainment
- Has its own Distinct Field
So, why is there still the argument that running is a hobby? Here’s the main reason why. Let’s say you have been running all your life, but it is just for fun, for health, or for losing weight. Maybe it is just around the block once or twice a week. You have maybe never competed in an actual organized, competitive, running event. Would this mean that running is a hobby to you, not necessarily a sport? In all honesty, probably yes.
If you are a recreational runner who does not or has not competed in an event, or has no future plans to, it may be fair to say that running is a hobby for you. In fact, if someone were to ask this individual if running is a sport or a hobby, they would very likely answer that running is a hobby. And I believe that is a fair answer and viewpoint to have based on that context.
So does that mean the key between running being a sport or running being a hobby is the competitive factor? That is the argument I mostly hear, and if you want to go strictly by the qualifications of what determines a sport, then there should be some level of competition. It may be hard to argue that for the strictly recreational runner. If you are a runner who regularly competes, or trains to compete in a big organized running event, then you check all the requirements for running being a sport.
Maybe running does not fit nicely into one uniform looking box, like football, or baseball, or basketball. Or maybe many of us never compete in actual running events. Perhaps the answer depends on the lens you view the question through. When you hear the word “running”, do you picture a track and field meet? Then you probably believe running is a sport. Do you picture a quiet solo jog on a Saturday morning? Then you probably believe running is a hobby. And both these answers can be right. Answering the ongoing question of whether running is a sport or not is unfortunately not a black and white, clear cut, cut and dry, yes or no answer.
Running can look very different from other sports, and take on many different forms. It can be competed in and enjoyed on many different levels, and it has the unique ability to cater to a wide range of professional, amateur, and everyday athletes. But it is still a sport for those that choose to make it their sport! And for those that choose to make it a hobby, then it is a hobby! At the end of the day, just get out there and enjoy running!
Ready to add some competitiveness to your own running game? Check out my half marathon and marathon training plans!
PIN for LATER!