At the scholastic and collegiate level, racing is one of the healthiest of competitions, and the one with the least cost, especially cross country. It's also the only sport that one can compete in at school, and continue to participate in decades later into one's senior years.
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, running shoes and duds can go along easily. The sport and the benefits are always readily available.
More: 8 Tips to Squeeze Your Runs in While You Travel
Some sports require expensive and complex equipment, along with fields, courts, arenas or stadiums. Sometimes these are unavailable, especially to the ordinary citizen. They are also always expensive. But growing up poor does not prohibit a child from growing up to be fast. Nutrition does play a role, as does health care availability in general, but usually it is available to all—and more so now with the Affordable Care Act in the U.S.
On average, the sport of running costs much less than other organized sports, yet it provides so much enjoyment and benefit. And it provides this benefit to participants for many decades.
More: 6 Benefits of Running
Schools require less extensive and expensive fields or facilities for running programs. African runners, for example, compete on the world's roads and tracks. And they dominate with few, if any, sporting facilities at home in comparison to European countries. Technology and economic power aside, advanced countries can be beaten, and beaten badly, by teams from third-world countries. Running is open to all.
Age is a factor in every other sport. There are few age-group competitions, for example, outside of running. In running and racing, people sometimes begin after retirement, or certainly later in life. Some run in their youth and put it away for a while, then revisit after their kids are grown. Often older women had no chance before Title IX at participating in other athletic activities, but find success in running and racing.
More: The History of Women's Running
Running is a natural and instinctive activity that can be performed at any age. Exercise, health benefits and enjoyment are common to most sports, but few other competitive activities are readily available to those who wish to participate. The 87-pound sophomore boy is not likely to find success in football. A 150-pound, six-foot girl is unlikely to win in gymnastics. But they can both be successful athletes as runners. Ten-year-old girls can compete in the same race with 80-year-old women, and both can win their divisions.
Few sports give back a feeling of elation and exaltation, and few give participants such boundless energy, power, health and quality of life. Few other sports provide such a sense of mission and accomplishment, and few are as specifically measurable in terms of progress and benefits. Whether you are preparing for middle school or mid-life, high school, college, work, travel or retirement, a running program can be tremendously valuable. And it is available.
There is nothing like it. Running is open to all-comers. Running is the most democratic of sports.
More: 10 Best Running Cities in the U.S.
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