“I can’t run” is the reaction I get from so many people when the subject of running arises. It seems that running is easy for some and absolute torture for others. So why do so many of us take up running and why is it currently the fastest growing physical activity in the world?
Fact: our bodies have not changed in over 40,000 years.
We have evolved socially and technologically, but our basic blueprint remains unchanged.
Human Beings Are Weak As Hell
We are weak compared to the other great apes, slow compared to the big cats, hyenas and wolves and we do not have any weapons for defence or attack. No big claws, no horns, antlers or sabre like teeth to attack or defend and no camouflage to hide. We don’t even have a decent coat of fur to keep us warm or to protect us from the burning sun. By all accounts, we should have been wiped out millennia ago. Since the success of any species depends on survival and procreation, we have no right to be here. But that’s not the full picture. What is it that enabled us to not only survive but thrive and become the dominant species on Earth. There are two things we do better than any other species, talking and running.
Our Greatest Strength
Before the invention of the spear and way before the bow, humans evolved to stand upright, breathe really well, stay cool through sweating and to run for hours on end. This is why we have hair on the top of our heads (and sometimes our shoulders) to shield us from the sun. We learned to track and chase bigger, heavier animals over great distances. They would out sprint us for a kilometre or a mile then have to stop to cool down and catch their breath. We ran slower, keeping them in sight on the great savannahs and forcing the beast to sprint again before it had recovered. The chase continued until the heavier animal dropped to the ground, exhausted and overheated, gotcha.
We were able to communicate through complex speech to coordinate the chase and attack with precision. Everything we learned we then passed on to the next generation. Man (and Woman’s) greatest strengths are endurance running and communication.
You Were Born To Run
So, next time you think you weren’t built to run, think again. You have all the parts and 40 thousand years of running history behind you. Sure, some people are genetically gifted with the ideal height and build and a VO2 max that allows them to use oxygen better than most. But, we can all run. If you haven’t run since school then of course it’s going to feel tough. You’re just out of practise.
If you are reading this and you have lost a limb, both of your legs, or were born without the use of your legs, you could make a very strong case to say maybe you weren’t born to run. But, I extend this promise to all endurance endeavours. Your natural born ability to cool on the fly, suck in oxygen and turn your muscles into endurance engines can be expressed in many ways. The great Richard Whitehead runs the marathon on prostheses, Wheelchair olympian Jade Jones competes up to 5,000m on the track and British Para legend David Weir is untouchable in the marathon. It is almost as if nothing can stop us from being the endurance champions of the earth. All we need to do is start. Take a running leap of faith.
In my next blog I’ll show you how to start running, get good at it and, more importantly, enjoy it.
In the meantime, here is an article to help you run uphill and here’s one to help you on your way back downhill.
What do you think? Does the idea of running fill you with dread? Or were you born to run? I want to know…