Running with the cloud

CPX Intern Luka Jamieson reflects on what running using the fitness app Strava has in common with belonging to a faith community.

Does anyone actually enjoy running? I’m not going to lie, I don’t love it.

However, since Covid began, I’ve never run so much in my life. What happened? I joined Strava – this simple little app which tracks your exercise and allows you to share it with friends.

While I have never actually physically run with these friends, I am heavily involved in a running group of about 15 people who all cheer each other on. Fast or slow, you’re part of the crew.

But if you have even the tiniest competitive bone in your body, you’ll know that being able to see all the stats on your friends can be a major motivator for your own fitness routine.

It’s known as a ‘contagion’ effect. Research has shown that our friends’ social media activities can measurably influence how much effort we put into our own training. We train more and perform better when our community is watching. While it can become an unhealthy obsession, there’s something incredibly powerful about a healthy community. We run alone, but our people keep us accountable.

The way I use Strava is much like my experience of belonging to a faith community. The scriptures even describe life in terms of running a race that is marked out for us. We run alone, yet ‘surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses’.

In running, and in life, I’m thankful for ‘the cloud’.