I recently traveled to Sydney, Australia and got a small taste of what life is like Down Under. The most impressive aspect of Sydney life? Physical activity. Walking around the Central Business District on a Thursday at lunch, the park was swarming with cyclists, footballers, cricketers, boxers, and, of course, runners. It was a beautiful Summer day and everyone took full advantage of it as they took care of their bodies and had some fun. Although they could have fooled me on that last part as I didn’t see a single smiling runner.
During my time in Sydney, I made a point of tracking how many runners smiled or returned my hello. I passed runners at lunch time, on the weekend, in the morning, on the Harbor Bridge, at Coogee Beach, and in every location, only one or two runners said hello or smiled. On the bridge in the morning, I assumed it was for one of two reasons: either that I was a tourist, or that they were on their way to work which is not always pleasant. And yet there they were, running over one of the most famous bridges and harbors in the world on a gorgeous Summer day with the sun changing the color of the sky and clouds each minute. How can such a setting not make someone relax and get just a hint of a smile? I know it gives me pause when I run and watch the sun rise, and I’m only looking at Camden!
Sidney Australia (by Sarah Johnson)
Camden, NJ (by Sarah Johnson)

A non-running friend once asked why people bother running. He noted that every runner he sees looks like they’re in a lot of pain. I agreed that they are most likely struggling, pushing their body to its physical limits and that might present itself as pain on someone’s face. To answer his question, I started observing runners’ faces and I had to agree: no one looked like they were having any fun. I now make a point when I run of smiling, especially when I encounter other runners. It always makes my run a bit more pleasant.

Beer Runners during the Philadelphia Marathon (Mike Searer)

This past Fall I cheered on a number of Fishtown Beer Runners as they ran the Philadelphia marathon. From start to finish, they all had a smile on their face and even waved to supporters along the route. They were the happiest marathoners I have ever seen. Maybe running for beer creates a positive reinforcement so that running no longer becomes a chore or only a painful means to an end. I like to think that Beer Runners go out for many reasons, whether the beer at the end, running with friends, or for the simple love of running. Whatever motivates us to get out there each Thursday, there is one trait that distinguishes the beer runners: a smile.

— Sarah Johnson