What Truly Makes Running Different Than Other Sports?

What Truly Makes Running Different Than Other Sports?

“Ugh, my team lost again! I had so much faith in them after last season!”

If you’re a sports fanatic who loses their cool when your favorite team fails to make it to the finals, you might not want to face the fact that you have no control over how great or poor someone else plays a sport.

However, while you’re pining over a competitive sport that an entire team has spent months practicing to play, every spectator should know that when it comes to the sport of running, there’s a unique sense of always being a “winner” – a confident trait which separates us from other athletes.

So why is running such a great choice to take up as a sport?

Well, if you notice the aggressive energy, tense vibes, and sometimes hostile and competitive rapport among athletes in sports like soccer, football, hockey, basketball, and baseball, you’ll notice that there’s a drastic difference in watching team-oriented sports that are extremely different from watching runners perform during marathons.

Even in sports where there’s a one-on-one competition between two players, such as tennis or boxing – and the gruesome violence of UFC beatdowns – many fans are rooting for one player or the other. It’s not likely you’re just going to “hope everyone has a good time” – because of most sports pit one player/team against another.

Running is such a unique sport in that its benefits and competitiveness puts it in a class all its own!

One of the best reasons to take up running as a sport is to be part of a supportive community while also staying fit. Let’s not forget to mention that even if you’re the very last person to cross the finish line, you’re still an amazing athlete and no one is going to insult you for not trying hard enough.

While runners focus on diet, strategy, training, and techniques – just like with other sports – we have had a lot more control over our performance and focus since it’s all about us competing against our own PR most of the time. We can also guide ourselves through setbacks, which don’t frown upon the way team-oriented sports tend to be.

Think about this as well – many people play sports for “fun,” and to stay active, but few gaming sports provide a sense of zen, freedom, and therapy when the world is a headache. Is there anything calming and therapeutic about tackling and ramming into a group of other people just to score a point? Some sports also require strength in certain muscles which can tear or become overworked regardless of how much training and stretching the player does.

Most of these athletic challenges won’t be found in the sport of running! What else makes running so much different than other sports out there?

There’s No Trash Talkin’ Along Our Trails!

Team sports and competitions can get intense!

From slinging insults at the ‘losers’ to blasting players for costing their team a point, it can be tough to get involved in team sports and feel like you’re doing a good job. Of course, if you’re winning, it’s the best feeling in the world! Sadly, if you’re on the team that’s not doing so great, sore fans may be apt to throw food at you and call you some unsavory names!

There’s none of that in the running community!

When runners are in the midst of a race – whether it’s a simple 5K or a bustling marathon – we have supporters from all over the world on the sidelines giving us the motivation we need to do our best! Race volunteers are rooting us on and there’s so much positive feedback along the way no matter how good or bad we’re doing for timing.

Great job!” “You can do this!” and “Come on, you’re almost there, keep it up!” are among the positive cheers resonating from others as our legs are aching and our bodies are pushed their limits.

I doubt many of us have competed in a race where someone bitterly screams at us – especially a stranger – to run faster or that we should have trained harder. Being a runner means you’re always supported by those around you – and race coordinators/volunteers are there to encourage you to stay strong.

We may curse to ourselves in our heads that we needed to have a different strategy to make it up a hill or that we need to better control our cardio – but there won’t be any snickering from those around us about how “poorly” or “uncoordinated” we performed under the pressure.

Also, as you’re hitting the pavement or trail on race day, you’ll get high-fives, clapping spectators and positive vibes! Runners can also interact along the race with spectators if we want – and if you’ve ever run a fun race course, you’ll notice most runners will react to positive feedback with smiles despite their exhaustion!

Running is a rare sport in that even if you did “bad” on timing, you’re still an amazing athlete who won’t be insulted by those who can’t do the same. Professional runners may face analytical feedback from commentators who compare their performance to previous competitions, but the positive energy keeps flowing no matter what!

No Accessories Or Special “Confined” Space Required!

For runners who are keeping it simple and just want to enjoy staying fit while testing their endurance, there’s no need to haul a lot of running accessories or sporting goods with us on the open trail!

We’re not packing bags of balls, we don’t need rackets or sticks and we don’t need bulky protective wear/padding just to head out the door for a couple of miles around our neighborhood. We can easily put our phone and tunes in a small pouch that goes around our am and if we must carry anything, it’s usually a bottle of water to stay hydrated during our run.

Another great thing about taking up running is that you don’t need to do it in a confined place or “field” or course. Where many sports are confined to a stadium/rink/ring or limited space in a yard where players have to be in certain positions, running is more liberating!

Whether you’re trail running along scenic paths or simply trekking different places around the neighborhood, running unleashes you into an open world of locations that may inspire you to run with more energy and endurance. Running is the only sport where you can physically discover new places during the entire time you’re doing it, especially if you’re somewhere exciting while running outside.

When race officials publicize most competitions, they’ll pull you in by mentioning the many diverse sites and scenes you’ll capture as you’re running. Love to see mountains and capture oceanfront views during your run? There are plenty of open spaces you can run for hours – and miles – that may never have been trekked!

What I love best about running is that the sport can be done practically anywhere that’s safe and open to the public.  All you need is your feet and an open road or a path to weave in and out of as you crush those miles.

Practice Doesn’t Have to Make You Perfect

What do you think about when a “perfect run” comes to mind? Being able to run non-stop for a certain amount of time? Are you thinking about the “perfect” weather conditions and being able to increase how many miles you can trek?

Unlike other sports where the mantra “practice makes perfect” is a burden on your shoulders, running simply requires you to get out there – and you really don’t have to perfect if you’re not competing!

Children whose parents want them to get involved in a team sports harp on practicing, aiming right, swinging, or blocking opponents at the right time. From a young age, the pressure is always on in many sports to “get it right!”

Running is unique in that even if your “strategy” to go faster takes a while to master, or your incline running technique isn’t the best, you’re still doing great with your legs and feet pushing as hard as they can. Many runners have to practice a form that works best for them and mastering/breaking down segments of our runs can be one way to get through those long treks. Regardless of how you train, running can be more fun and enjoyable no matter what the circumstances, and as the saying goes, even a bad run is better than no run!

It’s Good For Your Body – No Age Limits!

When you think about professional athletes who retire before they’re 40 years old, their career is a true testament to how much the body can handle before one needs to proverbially “throw in the towel.” The physical demands of every sport obviously differ, but the fact that pro athletes in sports such as hockey, football and baseball can’t continue to play well into their old age says a lot about the advantages/disadvantages of the sport itself physically.

Yes, if you don’t prepare your body or wear the right gear, running sometimes takes a toll on the shins, tendons and leg muscles. Some serious athletes may need to rest or decrease their mileage after years of competing in marathons. Overall, however, routine running can be done in different forms that are good for you!

You can go for a slow run/jog and change your techniques so that you’re not literally pounding the pavement too hard. If you’ve ever heard the myth that running is “bad for your knees,”  don’t believe this old wives tale!

Health experts say running, done right with stretches and strength training exercises, helps ward off bone deteriorating diseases. If you factor in cardio and blood circulation benefits of a good and light 1-3 mile run – slow or fast – there’s no doubt that running provides health benefits for as long as you can keep it up. People can keep running well into their 60s and 70s if they want to – at whatever pace they feel is comfortable for their joints.

The chances are very slim that you’ll see a pro boxing match – a violent sport of pure brawn and force – between a couple of 70-year-olds. Boxing and UFC matches can be considered one of the most ferocious one-on-one competitions that become quite dangerous after years of brutal – and possibly bloody – beatings. While heavyweights usually retire in their 30s and move on to other, calmer athletic feats that are less damaging to their heads/brains./bodies, the impact of getting hit repeatedly isn’t a factor in the running world!

Even one-on-one sports like tennis, which is good for coordination and cardio, exert muscles that can be pulled/overworked and strained with sudden swinging movements if the player doesn’t focus on their hand-eye coordination and ball distance. Tennis is another sport where the peak age for professional competing is confined to one’s mid to late 20s.

How old are some of the oldest professional runners? According to one online source, several marathoners have done pretty well in their 70s and 80s! Even though many seasoned octogenarian runners finished in well over 5 hours, they were still able to accomplish a feat that wouldn’t be as possible as in another sport.

A mentally healthy aspect of running is that it doesn’t require you to think too much – alternatively, running serves as a sport to clear your mind and get away from reality. If you don’t want to think about or focus on your breathing and just need to get away from things to be in your own headspace, running provides a therapy whereas most other sports require some skill set and executing your skills/coordination and careful concentration on your next move.

Running is truly healthy in that it involves the entire body working together, but it can also be done at a pace that only you have to worry about! You can slow down if you want, speed up, take a break, walk it out or alternate your techniques without worrying that your training method affects someone else’s flow.

It’s All About You And Your Focus!

While taking part in other sports means players are dependent on analyzing their opponents’ game style and strategy to “win”, most runners are purely focused on doing better than themselves and no one else!

Heading out to compete in that 10K or half marathon at a location where you’ve never run? Chances are, you probably don’t know anyone in the crowd personally who you’re aiming to “beat” – and your only goal is performing better than you did in the past.

Knowing that your running isn’t affecting anyone else’s success or failure, you can totally stay focused on your breathing, form, and pace. You can also prepare for race day all by yourself and set your own goals of what you want to achieve – which usually won’t involve other runners!

Not at the pro-athlete level for running and don’t need someone giving you running or technique/training advice? That’s okay!

Those who simply run for fun don’t need coaches, teachers or trainers to provide tools on what works to “win” or “get points” – because we only need to listen to our bodies as we do whatever works for us. Sure, if running with someone else helps motivate you and learn about self-discipline, that’s your choice. Ultimately, it comes down you competing against yourself and being the best runner you can be.

With all the ways that running is so different than other sports, it’s a no-brainer why so many of us become addicted to its benefits well into our old age. No matter what reason you choose running over other sports, rejoice in knowing you can keep trekking and keep getting better.


  1. USA Today: Unbeaten Light Heavyweight Champion Andre War Retires
  2. Live Science: 5 Experts Answer Running Bad Knees
  3. Oldest: Marathon Runners