Is Running A Sport? 5 Amazing Facts You Should Know

If running is the only physical activity you enjoy doing, and you are asked what your sport was, it may seem reasonable to answer “running”. But is it? The argument whether running is a sport or not is a simple yet complicated one.

While some think it should be categorized as a hobby because it doesn’t require much skill, others argue that it can be called a sport. So, is running a sport or a hobby? We’ll first define what a sport is and compare running to that definition. Then, we’ll compare how running measures up to these five pre-requisites.


Definition Of A Sport

People have varying ideas as to what should count as a sport and what should not so we’ll stick to the facts in defining a sport. By definition (1), a sport should possess the following qualities:

1. Should Involve Physical Exertion

As straightforward as this may sound, further complications arise when the term "physical exertion" is defined. (2) For example, since physical exertion includes any activity that exerts your muscles to keep fit and includes yoga, does that mean that yoga can be considered a sport? Relying on only this definition of a sport is, therefore, insufficient which brings us to the second pre-requisite of a sport.

2. Should Involve A Degree Of Skill


This is probably the most important requirement that helps to define a sport. According to experts, the degree of skill involved can be categorized into ten: (3)




The ability to endure physical punishment over an extended period of time


The ability to achieve full range of movement and stretch the body extensively


The ability to tackle nervousness or fear


The ability to change direction at the shortest time possible


The ability to increase strength in a short period of time


The ability to move fast


The ability to continue to perform sports for extended periods of time

Hand-Eye Coordination

The ability to react quickly to sensory perception

Analytic aptitude

The ability to evaluate, visualize, and react appropriately to situations that involve strategy

According to these skills, experts rate boxing at the top and fishing at the bottom.

3. Should Be Done Competitively For Entertainment

Running Competitively For Entertainment

The definition of competitive sports is to give full play to the ability of an individual or team through special training and competition with the goal of accomplishing a break of record of the person or the rival. It can either be done in competition with others or overcome natural obstacles. Its main purpose is to acquire good score, promote physical health and provide entertainment. (4)

Despite these three determining factors, others suggest that additional features apply to sports such as (5)

4. There Should Be A Certain Number Of People Participating In It

For example, in order for a sport to make it to the Olympics, a major factor considered is the popularity. This includes the requirement that it should be played all over the world and by men and women. In addition, it should be popular enough for there to be reasonable media interest, television rights, sponsors, and spectators. It also should be sports that can generate income. (6)

This is the reason why some sports that pass the previous four requirements still fail to get accepted in the Olympics.

5. There Should Be A Fixed Set Of Rules Enforced By A Single Organization


Going back to the example of the Olympics, one of the pre-requisites for a sport to be considered for inclusion in the Olympics is that it should have an International Federation. This federation then answers tons of questions regarding the global participation of the sport, whether both genders can participate and the like. (7) These federations also take responsibility for the health of athletes and provide insurance for them. (8)

The Sports Federation also set rules of the game and are able to identify risk factors. (9)

Is Running A Sport?


Now that we understand the factors that are at play in deciding whether an activity is a sport or not, let us go back to running. We’ll examine how it fits into the five mentioned criteria:

1. Physical Exertion

According to researchers, the degree of physical exertion is measured by how hard you do that activity. Intensity is measured from low to moderate and high. Activities with more intensity put more pressure on your lungs and heart. (10)

  • Moderate activities include yoga, dancing, gymnastics, and walking which all burn from 3.5 to 7 kcal/minute.
  • ​Intense activities burn more than 7 kcal/minute and include running and circuit weight training. (11)

Clearly, when it comes to the degree of physical exertion required in running, it passes the requirement.

2. Skills

Track and field sprints which involve sprinting for a short period of time at the fastest speed possible ranks 38th on the Degree of difficulty of sports ranking chart. (3) It scores the following in the different skills required for sports:

















Hand-Eye Coordination


Analytic aptitude


3. Competitively

There are different types of running races in which athletes compete in. (12)

  • Sprints - Commonly 60m, 100m,200m and 400m
  • Middle distance races - 800m, 1,500m, 3,000m or 5,000m
  • Long distance races - 5,000 to 10,00m
  • Marathons -about 26 miles
  • Ultra Marathons - over 50 to 100 miles

4. Participants

Different distance runs are regularly included in the Olympics including the 500m run, 1500m run, 100m hurdles, and 800m. Both males and females participate in these events. (13) This shows the acceptance of running as a sport in the Olympics. In addition, the number of finishers in the US in 2015 is a total of 17.1 million according to the National Runner Survey. (14)

5. Organization

There exist multiple International Running Organizations such as AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races) which is a member-based organization of more than 400 of the leading distance races worldwide. Its members included over 100 countries. The goal of AIMS is to promote distance running and coordinate with other organizations. (15)

Other running organizations include

  • ITRA (International Trail Running Association) which promotes trail running (16)
  • IAU (International Association of Ultra Runners) (17)
  • AI (Achilles International) (18)

Running, therefore, passes the fifth requirement having multiple organizations around the world that monitor and facilitate runners.


Clearly running is accepted as a sport. It requires great physical exertion, some skill, is done competitively, has millions of participants worldwide, and has International organizations that make rules. Based on these five requirements of a sport, it can pass as one. But the question is when can you say running is your sport?

The answer is clear: as long as you do it competitively. So, if you simply run a few miles for health and don’t take part in competitions, you cannot say running is your sport.

However, if you do compete once in a while, then running can be considered as your sport.How did you enjoy this article? Have you also faced the question about running being a sport? How did you answer? We’d love to hear all your experiences in the comments below so feel free to share. Also, remember to share this article with family and friends to help them realize the truth about running.

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