The runner’s personality

You can see a lot of interesting things when running.

You can see a lot of interesting things when running.

There is so much more to running than meets the eye. Avid distance runners really are a tribe apart. It is not uncommon for runners to have only other runners as close friends, since it can be difficult to relate to non-runners. In large part, this is because running isn’t just an activity, it is the centerpiece of a very active lifestyle. Sure we can be friends with other athletes like cyclists or rock-climbers(and we sometimes participate in these activities), but only other runners can be our soul brothers or sisters. To runners, sedentary people seem like a totally different species who speak an unintelligible language.

Which leads some of us to ask “how different are we really?”. As diverse as runners are, there are some personality traits we seem to have in common. I’ve long suspected that distance runners tend to be more introverted on average, since running for long stretches of time alone practically requires that you enjoy solitude. Having looked into this, it appears this hunch has some evidence to support it. According to Personality and physiological traits in middle-aged runners and joggers:


A series of personality and physiological tests and measurements were made in 48 healthy male runners and joggers 40-59 years of age (x = 47.3 yrs.). The Cattell 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire showed that the subjects were significantly more intelligent, imaginative, reserved, self-sufficient, sober, shy, and forthright than the general population. A maximal treadmill test revealed the men to be well above the mean for their age in terms of cardiorespiratory fitness. The men who had run a marathon race and the 40-49-year-age group were higher in terms of fitness than nonmarathoners and the 50-59-age groups, but the groups differed very little from each other on personality characteristics. Middle-aged runners and joggers either possess or develop high levels of self-sufficiency and imagination and tend toward introversion in their personality makeup. It is not known for sure if these factors are a result of or a casual factor in their habitual exercise pattern.

Now this is an old study, but it seems accurate enough to me. In a way, the kind of exercise a person engages in is a reflection of their personality, so this isn’t a big surprise. Introversion is often unfairly considered a negative trait(in contrast to extroversion), yet if it correlates with or somehow encourages people to be more active even if they don’t have an exercise partner, this is one big advantage of introversion.

Now if only researchers could do a study on the personality traits of jogglers. That should make for interesting reading!

Update: Last week I managed to run 40 miles, after weeks of very little mileage due to my injury. I am almost fully recovered, I feel only a little soreness toward the end of long runs. The photo above was taken during yesterday’s 14 mile, very hilly run.

8 responses to “The runner’s personality

  1. Great post, there is still snow overthere 🙂 ? Have a wonderful week-end!!!

    • The strange thing about the photo is that the last big snow storm was almost 2 weeks ago, and some cars are still buried in snow. The weather has been too cold for most of it to melt. You take care too.

  2. I very much agree with the finding of the study. I have found this to be true in my own experience and anecdotally through others.

    • I totally agree with it too, except maybe at the end where the authors aren’t sure about what is causing what. Of course, this is just how science works, where scientists can’t assume anything, though it seems ridiculous to think that running can result in big personality changes that make people who run more introverted, more intelligent, and more imaginative, etc.

      For whatever reason, runners are more likely to be intelligent, imaginative introverts, and it’s obvious to me that they have very likely always been like that. To my knowledge, people’s personalities can change over time, but not by much, unless a disease or injury has a profound affect on the brain. BTW, are you still eating eggs? Take good care of yourself.

      • Obviously, certain activities work well for introverted, intelligent, imaginative people. Both you and fit that mold and so we do things that fit more with our solitary souls. Doesn’t mean we are not social, or amusing, just that a part of us, which I call the reflective part, needs nourishing. Eggs: cut way back gradually incorporating egg substitute. Still have a bit to go, but making real progress.

  3. That was fun to read. thank you for sharing.

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