The other day I was at the school gate talking to some mums. One was a running mum and I listened intently as she answered the questions of non- runners who were intrigued by the motivators that kept her in the sport. The discussion was mostly about running as a social outlet. The points she raised resonated with me on many levels. So much so that I felt they warranted sharing. Here is what I took away from this discussion:

Runners form a very eclectic and diverse community. One of the great things about running is that it binds people that otherwise would not cross paths or even mix in the same social circles. It also transcends age, gender, education, wealth and culture. Many of my training partners are a generation younger than me, some are a generation older than me and most are people I would not have met had it not been for the run. I have running friends that are unemployed, that are Christian, that are Muslim, mothers, university students, doctors, lawyers, composers.   In this way, running rounds me out. It enriches my perspective; it widens my eyes to an array of experiences and personalities; it stretches my social context beyond the immediate.

Running allows you to spend time enterprising and active in the presence of others. The social outlet of running is unique in many ways. I call it, connected disconnect. You can completely detach from other aspects of your life or your daily routine while simultaneously socially interacting with others. The long run and many training sessions offer the opportunity for discussion (if this is your preferred modus operandi), otherwise listening or just being there, jogging beside another in the absence of words is enough to satisfy those more introverted. This is the case for me. I love nothing more than being able to simply be. To run beside others without having to really give or take from the other runner in any other way but for the sharing of presence. It takes little emotional effort yet seemingly feeds the soul.

Running builds identity. As running mums, our sport offers an opportunity to be accepted and seen for who we are not what we do or who we care for. To be seen as individuals removed from our jobs, our roles as mothers, caregivers, and wives. The sport provides a platform for connection and for discussion that is largely disconnected from these roles. It validates our efforts by the achievement of milestones: conquering a distance, running a fast time, tackling a new trail. It builds self-esteem, opens the world to discovery, and provides us with stimulus that says- you can because you have and because you invest of yourself. The independence and sense of self we receive from our running reiterates to us that our roles do not define us. We are much more. We may have dependants but we also have an independent existence that makes us better.

As a runner, I am better because of the connections I make. As a person, I am better because of the connections I make. Of course, RMA is one platform for this connection but the sport offers up many others. Running is not only about the physical, physiological and the mental benefits. Don’t underestimate the social. What are the social aspects of running you value the most? I am sure there are many others!

 Anna is a mum of two from Sydney, distance runner, and ambassador for Running Mums Australia