In many ways running is the most democratic of sports. Anyone can participate anywhere she or he chooses. It matters not if running athletes are rich or poor, female or male, old or young. Ethnicity, race, religious persuasion, and orientation are irrelevant. Size and age have no bearing. Location-location-location becomes anywhere-anytime-any distance in the runners' world.
There are no rich franchise owners—anyone can be a race director. Running clubs and national organizations are staunchly democratic, with no aristocratic elite; they are open to all, and at every level.
Running can be done alone, or with small groups, or with thousands. You cannot suit up for the NFL, WNBA, or have a set with the Williams sisters or Federer. You cannot play in major league ball park. You cannot go out and compete in a round of golf with LPGA or PGA folks. But you can run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon on the same course, at the same time as the world's elite runners. Running is one of the oldest of athletic activities, and the most utilitarian in origin. Nobody asks a runner about occupation, but may inquire as to pace, base and next race. No one tells a runner she is not welcome. It is wide open, and for all.
More: How New Runners Can Engage With the Running Community
Running is also the most portable of sports. It depends only on attitude, not on latitude or geographic location. Except for busy highways or other dangers (never run on Interstates, for example), there are few roads, streets, neighborhoods, parks, paths and trails where runners are not seen. This portability means that traveling is no obstacle. And running is running whether residing in or traveling to Florida, Minnesota, Flanders or Manitoba.
Great runners come from all corners of the globe, and so do average and slow runners. And they come from all walks of life. Athletes stride through deserts, forest, and fields; runners enjoy riverside or oceanside jaunts. Runners run up and down mountains. They run pretty much where and when they choose.
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Technology plays a very small role in running. Shoes are the only real investment required (although some would argue now that even shoes are not needed), and the technology for building running shoes and for developing shoe materials has advanced tremendously. Complex watches that are mini computers, heart rate and other monitors, and GPS devices are now part of running for many, but they certainly are not necessary.
There is still relatively little expense. Some seem genuinely determined to spend a lot of money on clothing and watches, shoes and monitors. You can, if you like. But really there are few things necessary to spend money on, except for comfortable clothing, travel and race fees.
Race timing, of course, has gotten much more complex and sophisticated. But the impact of materials and the digital age is still relatively small, and when it comes down to it, simpler is usually better unless it's the Olympics or a major marathon.