Online Running Community
The running community is strong. Maybe it’s because runners are strong. Facing hills, heat, humidity, cold, wind or snow while encountering sweating, tummy troubles, injuries and ridicule….runners are used to overcoming adversity. And bonding over the adverse conditions is a contributing factor to the success of an online community. I studied the mainstream online community, Runner’s World Community for this textual analysis. There are many online running communities, however I chose to focus on Runner’s World Community because this community was created to bring those who are passionate about running together to share tips, inspiration, motivation and support. This textual analysis will analyze the content in the Runner’s World Community by gender, topics and motivation behind connecting online.
Runner’s World includes a robust online community with sections dedicated to new runners, communities, specific running topics, races and locations. Runner’s World recently created a new online community, just for women runners. The topics in this new community include: Women’s Running Forum, Style, Run Matters, Nutrition and Chatter. One of the most recent posts in the Runner’s World Women’s Running forum by LariM (2014) “Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA)” had 5,763 views and 150 replies. This demonstrates that the online community is strong and seeks to connect with others and use this forum to communicate. The topics in the women’s community also reveal that while the forum is designed specifically for women, not all the topics are gender specific. Out of the last nine posts on the Runner’s World Women’s Running Forum, the topics included: online running coaches, nutrition, running mechanics, fashion, shoes, first time marathoner and running during pregnancy. Only three of the past nine topics were gender-specific.
When conducting a textual analysis of the Runner’s World Community, out of the last nine posts on “The Starting Line” topic, two of the posts were from women, three were from men and three were an unknown gender. In the topic, “Marathons” seven of the last nine posts were from women, two were men. In the topic, “Nutrition and Weight Loss” the last seven posts were from men and two were from women. In the topics, “Non Running Related (NRR)” seven of the last posts were from men and only two were from women. I analyzed the gender differences among the posts, hoping to find a trend that related to my hypothesis that women connected more on the online running community than men, but I did not find this to be true. There seems to be slightly more men posting on the online running forum than women.
Grainge, Brugha and Spiers (2000) tested their hypothesis that there is a negative relationship between social support and depression among extroverts. Since extroverts are gregarious, impulsive and active, they often rely upon social companionship to feel content. Therefore, Grainge, Brugha and Spiers (2000) believed that the lack of social support could lead to psychological problems among extroverts. They found that over a seven-year period, a low quality of family support for women and an absence of a communal feeling among women resulted in depression. There was an even greater correlation between the level of interaction with a community and levels of depression among women. Given the results of this study, it makes sense why Runner’s World would dedicate an entire section of their website just for women to connect.
One of the recent posts Runner’s World Women’s Running community was from GeekLove (2014) who asked if anyone could recommend an online running coach because she lives in a rural area and the closest running group was over an hour away. This post demonstrates that the members of the community use the online forum to connect with other runners when they can’t do so in a face-to-face environment. I found this post interesting, not only because a member of the community participated in the group as a way to connect with other readers, but also because she was seeking additional ways to connect with the running community online through an online running coach. One reason for runner’s connecting online may be because they live in a remote area, but another reason may be because they are introverted and feel more comfortable connecting online.
An interesting study by Frazier (1987) disproved that distance runners are more introverted than the general population. Frazier conducted a study with both elite and non-elite runners, using the The Eyesnck Personality Inventory to measure their introversion and extraversion. He found that elite runner’s actually have a higher extraversion than the general population. This is a possible explanation for the great involvement in the online community among runners. Runners desire connection on both running and non-running related topics. In the Runner’s World online community, there are many topics related to running, such as running in the dark, running while pregnant and what to wear while running in cold weather. However, there are also topics on non-running topics. There is a board titled “NRR (Non Running Related). Some of the topics include: “What’s Your Passion?”, “Saturday Morning Pictures” and “Word Association”. While the runner’s post pictures, play word association games and ask about each other’s passions, it demonstrates that the community is strong with both running and non-running related interests.
I analyzed the activity among the boards to see if certain topics resonated more with readers than others. One particular topic stood out as popular, by jpalfirsttimer (2014) entitled, “So you’re about to run a marathon and want pace advice…” This post had 31,721 views and 79 replies. Another post entitled “The TURTLE ROOM (4:30 +/-, less a pace than an attitude) by murphyO has 322,763 views and 7,165 replies. Compare this post to “Marathon Newbie: Pittsburgh” by karinamae with 0 replies and 14 views. The reason why “So you’re about to run a marathon and want pace advice…” and “The Turtle Room” posts are so popular relate the Uses and Gratifications (U&G) theoretical framework. The U&G theoretical framework that examines how individuals use mass media and suggests, “individuals select media and content to fulfill felt needs or wants” (Papacharissi, 2008, p. 137). The Runner’s World online forum fulfills others needs and wants by creating a user-generated community. The users of the site create the topics, respond to readers and post relevant content. Both “The Turtle Room” and “So you’re about to run a marathon and want pace advice” are about the community and participants, not the original poster. The post “Marathon Newbie: Pittsburgh” is all about the poster and it doesn’t leave room for engagement, which explain the low viewership and response.
In conclusion, the Runner’s World Community represents a diverse community with a variety of topics, motivation for connecting online and representation from both men and women. Other online running communities, such as the Women’s Running Community blog, provide an online community, but the underlying purpose is to drive sales of the magazine and advertisement revenues. I found the Runner’s World Community to be authentic and organic. The administrators of the site didn’t bait content, topics or advertisements. The community that Runner’s World creates through their online forum is one in which the members truly seek the engagement and connection, provide motivation, encouragement and support.
Are marathon runners really introverts?. (1987). Journal of Sport Psychology, 9(4), 321-322.Mostaghimi, A., & Crotty, B. H. (2011). Professionalism in the digital age. Annals Of Internal Medicine, 154(8), 560-W.197.
Grainge, M. J., Brugha, T. S., & Spiers, N. (2000). Social support, personality and depressive symptoms over 7 years: the health and lifestyle cohort. Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 35(8), 366.
jpalfirsttimer [User Name] (2013). Runner’s World Community. [Blog] So you’re about to run a marathon and want pace advice… Retrieved from http://community.runnersworld.com/topic/so-youre-about-to-run-a-marathon-and-want-pace-advice
karinamae [User Name] (2013). Marathon Newbie: Pittsburgh. Runner’s World Community. [Blog] Retrieved from http://community.runnersworld.com/topic/marathon-newbie-pittsburgh
LariM [User Name] (2014). Runner’s World Community. [Blog] Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA). Retrieved from http://community.runnersworld.com/topic/iron-deficiency-anemia-ida
murphyO [User Name] (2013). The TURTLE ROOM (4:30 +/-, less a pace than an attitude. Runner’s World Community. [Blog] Retrieved from http://community.runnersworld.com/topic/the-turtle-room-430—less-a-pace-than-an-attitude
Papacharissi, Z. (2008). Uses and gratifications. In M. Salwen and D. Stacks (Eds.) Uses and gratifications. An integrated approach to communication theory and research (pp. 137-152). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Runner’s World Community [Blog] (n.d.) Retrieved from http://community.runnersworld.com/topics