Running (not-so) Alone

I like to run 5Ks. The distance provides me with an appropriate level of challenge and reward. I enjoy running among groups of thousands who gather to promote active lifestyles. And yet, even among a crowd of thousands, I can still feel like I am running alone.

Onlookers often suggest to me that social and digital media make us feel more alone than we otherwise would. Yet, I argue that, in some circumstances, social and digital media are tools that can create a sense of knowing and “being known” that we all crave. These tools can record a performance, solicit encouragement, and create communities of support.

Greenville Downtown 5K

This weekend, alongside 2000 other runners, I participated in the 33rd annual Greenville News Downtown 5K Road Race. Besides my legs and running shoes, my iPhone was the most active technology in the event.

Before the race, I used it to call my brother and coerce him into running with me. Then, I used it to register us and determine where to pick up our race-day packets.

On the morning of the race, I used the Weather Channel App to learn that the temperature was a blustery 27 degrees. I used the iPhone camera to photograph different aspects of the race, and then used the Diptic App to create a photo spread (at right. Note the frozen fountain behind the photo of my brother and I – proof that the weather channel was accurate).

Race Route

Just before we started running, I checked in on FourSquare, posting to Facebook and Twitter. Immediately, I received 3 comments of encouragement from friends.

As we ran, I tracked the race on iMapMyRun – which measures time, speed, elevation, and route, among other things (see the route at left). After the race, I compared my time and training for this 5K with the record of past runs I’ve completed.

With my performance recorded, my community of support in place, and encouragement from my friends and followers, I find myself motivated to continue participating in 5Ks and continue leading an active lifestyle. Even if I can’t coerce my brother to run with me in 5Ks to come, I know that, thanks to social and digital media, I don’t have to run alone.

After all of this, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that as I was writing this post, my iPhone informed me about the Greenville News photo site, which included this shot of me as I came across the finish line:

at the finish line

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