Whether you hate it or love it, running is one of the most primitive sports in the world. From the beginning of Man to present day, humans have been running. But what most people don’t understand is that there is far more to it than just traveling on your feet for exercise. Ever since we have taken up the activity, whether it be for survival, exercise, or for fun, running has always been in our nature. Fortunately, running has been made vogue again, echoing its primordial importance.
Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run became a massive success after detailing the lives of the secluded Tarahumara tribe. This culture of ultramarathon runners has adapted specifically to running. For 400 years they have ran races well over a hundred miles for the pure fun of it. The book also talks about the history of running and how its beauty has been tainted over the years. To sum it up, millions of years ago, when we were hunters and gatherers, we “persistence hunted.” Basically, our ability to walk upright allowed for more endurance, which allowed us to literally run animals to death. Perspiration is our automatic cooling system, our feet are arched to better propel ourselves, and our upper bodies support us, increase our efficiency, and keep us balanced is the gist of it. The recent introduction of running shoes, Christopher points out, has provided over-protection that leads to increased injury. Wearing these shoes prevents us from running how we are “supposed” to.
Let’s jump forward a little bit. You may recall the ancient Battle of Marathons between the Athenians and Persians. If you did not notice, the word marathon is in the name and hints to the origin of our modern day distances. According to historians at the time, a messenger traveled 140 miles from Marathon to Athens to tell of the Greek’s victory. This supposed feat is incredible, to say the least. A glorious festival was held in place of the event. In 776 B.C., the first Olympic games were held in honor to the gods. What started as just racing events eventually adopted more competitive sports to become the modern Olympics. Running was held in great reverence by the Greeks. The eventual study of anatomy and physiology that was be influenced by them would greatly advance the art.
For further reading: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (2009)
It’s All Greek to Me by Charlotte Higgins (2008)