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Is running contagious?

Can you catch the running bug?

There may be a benefit to being a “social” runner versus a solo runner as far as a recent research article publishing in the journal of Nature.

There’s a lot of jokes about runners and other endurance athletes that post their workouts onto social media. If fact, sometimes I wonder if a workout really happened if you don’t post it onto MapMyRun or Strava.

Researchers at M.I.T. studied if social networks influenced the running activity of runners. The study looked at the running history of associated runners and whether or not changes in one runner’s running mileage and activity had an influence on other runners in their social circle.

The study, published in the scientific journal Nature, looked at the running history of close to 1.1 million runners over a 5 year span. The scientists looked at running mileage, time and run pace of each runner as well as the same data for their on-line running friends.

They found that runners in the same social circles had similar running data. The researchers also found that if one runner increased their mileage or running pace for the pace, a significant number of their online running friends also did the same.

One finding that I found interesting is that the increase in running mileage occurred regardless of weather. So even if it was cold, wet and dark in upstate NY, if one of their social running friends from sunny Southern California posted that they did a long run along the beach in beautiful sunny weather, it was more likely that the other runner suffered through a dark, cold wet run as a result (and probably muttering through shattering teeth to themselves that they needed to find friends in less warm sunny places.)

What’s also interesting in the study was which runners had the bigger influence on their running friends. Surprisingly, the slower runners in each social group had a bigger influence on increases in running mileage and speed of the rest of the group than when faster runners in the group posted longer or faster runs. Additionally, if someone was an infrequent or inconsistent runner, they influenced active or more consistent runners at a higher rate than the active runners influencing the less consistent runners.

The researchers also found that men were more heavily influenced by a wider range of their running group. Yes, it’s true, men that run are more heavily influenced by other runners. Men were influenced to increase their running mileage and/or running pace by faster or longer run posts from men and women in their social circle. On the other hand, women were generally only influenced by the posts of longer or faster runs by other women.

The conclusions?

Running is contagious, at least if you are already a runner.

So catch, or I guess it should be ‘keep catching’ the running bug!

And make sure you post about your run. Otherwise it didn’t happen….

You can read the full research article here at