Mental Illness, Facebook, Running And Friends You Have Never Met

I had a conversation earlier this week with someone about how close our running community is and that it is funny how we all seem to know each other, or at least know of each other. No doubt, we are predominantly a social bunch and tend to be more than happy to connect with other runners via Facebook, twitter or other social media.

But is this a good thing?

In our society we are seeing a dramatic increase in mental illness and in many of these cases the affected individuals are left feeling isolated, disconnected and lonely. It is widely accepted that two of the best things for preventing and managing mental illness are social interaction and exercise. It makes perfect sense then that our bunch are on the right track! Apart from the obvious benefits around our mental health, I believe the up side of having an extended running family is far greater.

When I look at the names on my Facebook page of people that I have befriended simply because they are runners, it makes me wonder if this happens in other sports too… It is interesting though that many of these people have now become very close friends. More interesting however is when I do get to meet them face to face (often after a year or more of conversing online), they are always fantastic people with which I almost always have a great connection with.

A couple of months ago I was working in the area of another runner whom I’d met through online running circles and had arranged to stay the night there. When I arrived, his wife asked how her husband and I had met. She was surprised to hear that we had in fact never met face to face and that I was basically a stranger sleeping in their house. The only explanation I could give her was that he and I had been “online dating” for some time. Luckily she didn’t kick me out at this point J

I have teenage kids and to think that they might be connecting with strangers online and then meeting up with them, would have me worried to say the least. Somehow it is different for us runners. I don’t know if I’m being naïve or if there is actually something different with our community. Either way, I’m glad to be a part of it.

I believe the old saying is true that “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.  Are those 5 people positive, energetic, health conscious, active and someone you admire? If they are running friends, my guess is that you can say yes to most of these things, and perhaps this is why we are often drawn to each other.

So, make the most of the wonder of social media, connect with people, find others like you and bring them into your orbit, but don’t forget to take it offline from time to time. Connect in person, meet up and go for a run or just a chat. You never know who you might meet or what impact they may have on your life.


Run long,


Shaun Brewster.

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