This essay focuses on the long-distance running boom of the 1970s and the ways in which the discourse on the boom reflected and shaped larger sociocultural developments. Specifically, the essay explores the paradoxical impulses that the running boom engendered between encouraging more solitary and individualistic behavior on the part of some who trained alone and sought deeper introspection, while simultaneously catalyzing a greater communitarian ethic among other runners in the form of running clubs and mass-participatory races. Scholars have long debated the extent to which Americans in the 1970s embraced individualism or communitarianism. A close examination of the long-distance-running community reveals that runners (and arguably Americans as a whole) did not fully embrace individualism or communitarianism to the exclusion of the other. Rather, the balance between those two seemingly contradictorily impulses became the point of contestation and negotiation within the running community and inside each individual runner.

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