This post is part the Lightspan Digital #MarketingHop on social sports, in which bloggers were asked to share their story about how social media is connecting people in the silent sports community.

For the first year and a half that I was a runner, it was mostly a solo sport for me. I would occasionally go out for runs with my husband, but most runs were by myself. I had a couple friends or co-workers who were runners, and I would turn to them for running advice, but we never ran (or went to races) together.

I was aware of local running clubs, but too chicken to go check them out on my own. I would stalk them online, via web sites and Facebook groups. Being able to preview the groups online definitely helped convince me to check them out in person. Eventually, I decided to stop being a creeper, and get out there. I started attending a weekly group run at the local running store, and couple months later, joined a local running club.

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And that drastically changed my running. I quickly became swept up in this local running community that I patched together with a local club, a local group run, and by following other local bloggers. In addition to building relationship in person on the trails, I’d interact with other runners online via Facebook groups, Twitter, blogs, and DailyMile. Running wasn’t just a way to work out or achieve my own goals; it was a way to be social.

I have been blogging for years (over a decade), and once running became an important part of my life, writing about it became an important part of my blog. I started following other running bloggers, including local bloggers. I quickly realized we were all following each other. I’d see the same bloggers that I follow pop up in the comments of other blogs. I already followed (via Google Reader) every local running blog that I came across, and it seemed like I wasn’t the only one. We were all running the same races and on the same trails. Why not create something out of it?

And so, I created ChicagoRunningBloggers.com. I wasn’t sure what would happen with it. Would anyone else read it?

Luckily, the answer was yes! To my surprise, other bloggers seemed really excited that I created it. We started planning meet-ups at local races and as stand-alone events. Running dates were scheduled by those who lived or worked near each other. A group of us even planned a girls weekend around a race. Of the 118 blogs listed on ChicagoRunningBloggers.com, I’ve met in person the people behind 41 of them. I love being able to not only read the experiences of other local runners, but I know that I’ll never be “alone” at another race. And even if I ever do a race alone, I know that I have this great online network with whom I can share my experience afterward.

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I think having such an extensive and supportive running network, both in person and online, has helped make running a consistent activity in my life. I made a couple attempts at running and working out in the past, and would always “fall off the wagon.” But having not just the support, but people willing to participate with me, has helped me log over 60 miles/month for the past 20 months. This is easily the longest work out “streak” I’ve ever had!

How has social media had an effect your running? Or other areas of your life? 
Check out other views from runners, retailers, reporters, coaches and race organizers to find out how social media is connecting the silent sports community. Then join us in a Twitter Chat by following the hashtag #marketinghop on Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. 

Tim Cigelske, The Beer Runner, (@thebeerrunner): A Not So Silent Sport
Myles Dannhausen, Door County Half Marathon, (@mylespulse): How Social Media Helps Us Improve the Door County Half Marathon
Tom Held, The Active Pursuit (@tomheld): An Antenna, Not A Mic – Reporting With Social Media
Maggie Wolff (@not_maragret): How Social Media Changed My Running
Ashley Kumlien, MS Run the U.S. (@MSRuntheUS): Raising Funds, Awareness With Social Media
Lauren Matricardi, Fleet Feet Chicago (@fleetfeetchgo): The Conversation:  Our Social Media Strategy 
Bob Richards, Chicago Run-Times: Social Media and the Silent Sports
Lightspan Digital: How Social Media Changed Running