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  • 1. Teachey 1Loren TeacheyMs. TilleryAP Literature18 November 2011 The Evolution of Running For as long as human history dates, there has always been one reliable way oftransportation from place to place. That method is by foot, either by walking, or moreprominently, running. From the earliest human civilizations in Africa, to the human migrationtheory and its global impact, humans have always been on the move, utilizing running as ameans of transport. Today, running, especially distance running, is looked at in an almostentirely different light. Instead of running or walking to destinations, humans now prefer to useless effort based means of travel. With the invention of machines such as cars, trains and planes,the need for people to exert energy to get from place to place has dramatically decreased. Today,running as a method of transportation is considered primitive and is only practiced by indigenouscultures. For the rest of the world, running is a competitive sport in which humans have pushedthe limits of physical endurance to great extremes. By looking at both the reasons for whyhumans run, and the way humans run today, a greater understanding of both the human body andhuman endurance can be obtained. To begin to understand how well a human body can be trained to run, the physical limitsof the body must be established first. Physical exercise is extremely taxing on the physical stateof the body, and with any form of exercise, the risk of injury is always present. Exercise andparticipating in sports can result in injuries as minor as bruises and mild sprains, to higher profileinjuries such as fractures in bones. For example, "Fractures account for 5 to 6 percent of all
  • 2. Teachey 2sports injuries" (Wells 1731). Injuries like these, however, are rare in the running world. Stressfractures, a minor type of fracture, sprains and tears are much more common among runners. Ingeneral, injuries are a common occurrence in the running world. "Up to eight out of every tenrunners are hurt every year" (McDougall 9). In any other sport, the rate of injury is not nearly ashigh. Todays modern running injuries are not what they were years ago. In older days, runnershad far less injuries, and the invention of the modern running shoe, which was largely pioneeredby Nike, has only helped escalate the number of injuries per year. In common sense, this seemslike a backwards statistic. If technology was continuing to improve, and more and more peoplewere taking up running, it would be logical to assume that running injuries would decrease, notincrease. To understand why this increase is occurring, the human anatomy must be observedcarefully. In almost any physics class, a teacher may use the human body as an example of amachine. The way that the body works and moves can be indeed broken down into simplemachines, such as the levers that might be seen in a physics classroom. This human machine hasspecial characteristics that enable it to perform tasks, such as running, quite well. For example,the surface area in various joints, such as the hips or the knees, are larger, which allows for thebody to absorb the shock of the impact caused by running. In a humans natural stride, the footlands with the forefoot and toes first, utilizing all elements of the natural shock absorber the legprovides. When a person wears shoes, a "shod" runner, the result is quite different. The stride ofa shod runner typically ends with a heel strike, where the foot makes contact with the ground onthe heel. "Most shod runners heel strike, experiencing a very large and sudden collision forceabout 1,000 times per mile run" ("Barefoot Running" This largercollision force is blunted by the shoe that protects a persons foot. But after battering the heel
  • 3. Teachey 3with such a large force over time, the body cannot sustain this motion of running without injury.This being known, early humans without shoes ran with a more natural stride, and had lessinjuries than the technologically advanced humans that live today. The natural efficiency of earlyhuman runners was developed due to necessity. "University of Utah biologist David Carrierhypothesized that endurance running evolved in human ancestors so they could pursue predatorslong before the creation of bows, arrows, nets and spear throwers" (The Evolution of humanrunning, Running was not merely a sport or a game. What is today aform of exercise was once a frequently used survival tool. The bodies of humans have changedin ways that walking or any other form of locomotion cannot have created because of running."If natural selection had not favored running Humans would still look a lot like apes" (HowRunning Made us Human, By returning to a natural running motion,humans can reduce the amount of injuries sustained and become better overall runners. After all,in todays world, performance is the most important part of running. Barefoot running is anextremely helpful training tool for even the best athletes in the world. Simply taking off theshoes for some short strides down a field or the beach can be extremely beneficial for the foot,and the rest of the entire body. "It strengthens the muscles in your foot, especially in the arch. Ahealthy foot is a strong foot, one that pronates (inward rotation of the foot in stride) less and isless likely to developed a collapsed arch" (Lieberman, Biomechanics of Foot Strikes). Thesetechniques and practices allow for the body to become adjusted to the natural stride, making it amuch more efficient system. With a more efficient body, athletes are better able to compete athigher levels than ever before. During human evolution, running was a survival skill. Today, running is a competitivesport, from short sprinting all the way up to ultra-distance running. "According to legend,
  • 4. Teachey 4Philippides ran twenty-six miles from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. to deliver the news thatthe Athenian army had defeated the Persians, making him the first famous runner in history"(Girard 204). Today, Philippides has left behind a legend that created what is perhaps consideredthe ultimate race in distance running. His marathon is now a widely contested event thatencompasses all elements of human strength and durability. Today, people become inspired toset their running goals high, and aim to complete one of these harrowing events. "From 1984 to2003, the number of runners completing marathons in the United States increased from 170,000to 400,000" (The Complete Book of Running 387). This tremendous rise in participants hasshown the escalating popularity of distance running. Others, are more modest in their approach.Some aim just to make it around the block or finish a local five kilometer race. Others do it forcharity. Whatever the reasoning, it is clear that todays focus in the sport of running has becomecentered on competition rather than survival and necessity like it was long ago. As competitive running, or racing, is now the primary human focus in the sport, it isimportant that humans know what they are doing to their bodies as they run and train. Humanshave the ability to obtain a great level of physical fitness through running, and have shown thatrunning furthers mental endurance, allowing one to push themselves farther than ever before.But, in order to accomplish these fantastic goals, proper training and coaching are necessary.Questions on what types of workouts runners should do, what their diet should be like, howmuch sleep a person needs to perform at peak levels, and even what effect normal day-to-dayactivities have on running performance have been asked. Even in children, running posesquestions, specifically as to what age they should begin running at in order to be the best theycan be. Fortunately, extensive research has provided some answers. For example, "Neitherscientific nor anecdotal evidence suggests that distance runners must start training at a young age
  • 5. Teachey 5to reach their greatest potential" (Greene 4). Starting young may not put veteran runners at anadvantage over new ones after all. With todays modern research, it has become easier and easierto become a good runner, just by becoming educated. In addition, this education has allowedpeople to not only become better athletes, but healthier individuals. Whether or not a personsticks with running, one might learn something along the way to help them live a better life. Forexample, humans often have issues with hydration and running. "Going back to the early days ofmarathon running, it was thought that the consumption of most fluids during long races like amarathon was not needed and even detrimental" (Magness, The Science of Running). Today, it isa well known fact that hydration is essential to performance running. As humans become moreeducated, the further running progression will go. In conclusion, it is easy to see that running is not merely a simple hobby or way ofstaying fit. Running is also more than just a style of athletic competition. Since humankindsearliest days, running has been a method of survival, a method of self improvement and a way oflife. To this day, indigenous tribes in Mexico still live their lives around running, as a way ofshowing their strength and skill. In Southern Africa, a small tribe of bushmen still practicepersistence hunting, a primitive method of chasing down an animal in the ultimate test ofendurance between man versus nature. No matter the cause, no matter the reason, humans willcontinue to run. And with this continuation, the science behind running and all the informationabout the human body and mind that can be gained will only continue to progress. Whether thesport is football, soccer, basketball or baseball, athletes around the world will continue to debatethe superiority of the sport that they play. But behind all that those activities encompass, nonecan deny what each sport is based on. Each of these sports includes running as an essential partof the game. It is the truest of sports, the sport behind all other sports. It is the simplest form of
  • 6. Teachey 6athletic ability and is the most grueling form of competition. And apart from any other activity, ithas shaped the course of human development more than any other human ability ever will. Whileit may be simpler to utilize the inventions and developments of the modern age, none can denythat if not for running, the advancement of the human race to its current extent might never haveoccurred.
  • 7. Teachey 7 Works Cited“The Evolution of Human Running.” Run The Planet. Demand Media, Inc., 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.Fixx, Jim. “The Complete Book of Running.” Gale Virtual Reference Library. GALE, 2006. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.Girard, Philippe R. “Running.” Gale Virtual Reference Library. GALE, 2003. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.Green, Larry, and Russ Pate. Training For Young Distance Runners. 2nd ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2004 . Print.Lieberman, Daniel, et al. “Biomechanics of Foot Strikes & Applications to Running Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear.” Harvard University Skeletal Biology Lab. Harvard University, 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.Magness, Steve. “The history of Hydration : A lesson in the scientific method and the Hype cycle.” Science of Running. N.p., 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.McDougall, Christopher. Born To Run. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Print.ScienceDaily. “Barefoot Running: How Humans Ran Comfortably and Safely Before the Invention of Shoes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily LLC, 27 Jan. 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.
  • 8. Teachey 8- - -. “How Running Made Us Human: Endurance Running Let Us Evolve to Look the Way We Do.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily LLC, 23 Nov. 2004. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <>.Wang, Yong-Xu, et al. “Regulation of Muscle Fiber Type and Running Endurance by PPAR&#948;.” PLoS Biology. Public Library of Science, 24 Aug. 2004. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.Wells, Ken R. “Sports Injuries.” Gale Virtual Reference Library. GALE, 2006. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.