Topical History

History of Running

Early History

It is theorized that human running evolved at least four and a half million years ago when our ape-like ancestor, Australopithecus, experienced dramatic anatomical changes to evolve into Homo-sapiens as a means of survival.  The ability to run gave humans the chance to hunt animals on land.  Humans needed a reasonable amount of speed as well as exceptional endurance in order to beat out their fellow meat eaters for food. Humans have always run or you could say running is what makes us human.

It was Pheidippides, an ancient "day-runner," who put running on the map in 490 BC in the running history. He is supposed to have run 149 miles to Sparta carrying the news of the Persian landing at Marathon, in an attempt to help for the battle. But many scholars believe this story to be a myth as according to them an urgent message to Athens could have been sent with a messenger on horseback. Yet the myth has a strong uphold in the origin of running and was the beginning of the modern marathon. The first running of the marathon in the modern Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens honored Pheidippides' historic run.

Competitive History

History shows running also shows that competitive running grew out of religious festivals in various areas such as Greece, Egypt, Asia, and the East African Rift in Africa. The Irish sporting festival Tailteann Games, which is held in honour of the goddess Tailtiu, dates back to 1829 BCE.  The Tailteann Games are one of the earliest records of competitive running in the history of running.  The origins of the Olympics and Marathon running are covered in myth and legend, though the first recorded game took place in 776 BCE. 
Women were not initially allowed to participate in running events as they were thought to be too taxing for the sensitive and gentle nature of the "weaker half."  In 1928, five track and field events for women were finally allowed into the Olympic Games. The final event was the 800 meters. When some of the women collapsed in exhaustion at the finish line, the public outcry was so great that the event (and therefore all events longer than 400 meters) were dropped until 1960.  When running events were allowed back on the track in 1960, still no event was longer then 800 meters.

Women still continued to revolutionize in the running world, specifically the Boston Marathon.  In 1966, a woman named Roberta Gibb hid in the bushes until the start gun, jumped into the race, and eventually, despite the efforts of a race director to tackle her off the course, finished as the first women's "unofficial" winner with a time of 3:21.40.

Long-distance running and track and field are now professional sports with major events held annually on the road, track and even trails. The pinnacle of sport remains the Olympic Games, with World Track and Field Championships and World Cross Country Championships held on a biyearly schedule. However, a huge community exists outside the elite level and over 500,000 people complete a marathon each year (in the U.S. alone). There are track meets, road races and multiple distance events held almost every day in every season throughout the world.

So although we no longer need to run to find food, in our own way, many of us still run to feel entirely human - we just didn't realize how natural that inclination really is.