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What is Running?

All About Running and Its Many Benefits


Updated June 27, 2014

runners in race
Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Depending on whom you ask, the definition of running can vary. Some people see it as a sport while others think of it as a mode of transportation, or something they'd do if they were being chased by a rottweiller.

You'd probably get just as many variations when posing the question, "Who is a runner?" While some people would argue that everyone knows how to run and anyone can do it, others believe that the term is reserved for Olympic-caliber track and field stars. Even after logging hundreds of miles in preparation for a marathon, some of the beginner runners I coach have confessed to me, "I still don't consider myself a runner!"

Do you run or do you jog? What's the difference? Most people would say that jogging is just a slow form of running. The late Dr. George Sheehan, a best-selling author from the 1970s running boom, once wrote that the difference between a runner and a jogger was a signature on a race application. In other words, if you're motivated and enjoy running enough to train for an organized race, you're a runner -- regardless of your speed or experience in the sport.

Types of Running

Most runners participate in one or some of the following forms of running:

  • Casual Running
    The majority of runners do it casually for the physical, social, and mental benefits of running. Casual runners usually love accessibility of running -- you don't need any fancy equipment, it's relatively inexpensive, and you can do it almost anywhere. And it's never too late to start running, as many people who have taken up the sport in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s have proved.


  • Treadmill Running
    A great alternative to running outside when the weather is bad, treadmill running is usually easier than outdoor running and can be gentler on your joints. Most treadmills allow runners to change their pace, incline, and resistance so they can simulate outdoor running and vary their workouts to prevent boredom.


  • Racing
    Some runners enjoy the thrill and competition of participating in road races, from 5Ks to half and full marathons. The vast majority of people enter races not to win (or even come close), but to set a personal goal and achieve it. Many former couch potatoes have become hooked on the sport after training for their first road race.


  • Trail Running
    For those who love to enjoy scenery and peaceful surroundings while exercising, trail running is a fantastic option. Trail running usually takes place on hiking trails of varying terrain, from deserts to mountains. Trail runners may find themselves sidestepping roots, scrambling up rocks, running through streams, or traversing up steep hills. For the trail runner who loves to compete, trail races take place throughout the country.


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