Explore & Discover the Beauty of Canada, USA, Greenland and Latin America on your feet.
How running became popular in the USA
Coach of 31 Olympic athletes and co-founder of Nike Bill Bowerman wrote and published his book “Jogging” in 1966 in the United States, which became a huge success.
He was inspired by Arthur Lydiard, a runner and coach in New Zealand in the sixties, who is still recognized as one of the best running coaches worldwide.
The many Olympic medals for New Zealand on Track and Field, in 1960 and 1964, prove how effective Lydiard’s training method was, in which he adds speed after gradually building a solid endurance base. His method focuses on developing an efficient oxygen intake, by making slow but steady progress.
He’s seen as the father of Long Slow Distance Running (LSD) and started the first jogging club in the world in 1961.
Lydiard introduced running as a way to improve your health and socialize in the same time, so people started seeing getting fit as an affordable way to have fun together.
It was in 1966 when the first magazine of Runner’s World was launched (then called “Distance Running News”). George Sheehan, a cardiologist, started running again when he was 45 and became a medical editor for Runner’s World.
He contributed to the fitness and jogging boom in the seventies by his unique approach and his focus on the joy and benefits of running at any age of our life.
Another contributor to the running boom was Jim Fixx.
Within ten years he lost 60 pounds (27 kg) and stopped smoking 2 packages a day.
His book, The Complete Book of Running became a bestseller, as his changed look and lifestyle showed the physical and mental benefits of exercise and how it considerably improved his quality of life.
And then there was “Pre”…
Steve Roland “Pre” Prefontaine was an American middle and long-distance runner who competed in the 1972 Olympics and who once held the American record in seven different distance track events from the 2,000 meters to the 10,000 meters.
During his brief 24-year lifespan, Steve Prefontaine grew from hometown hero to record-setting college phenomenon, to internationally acclaimed track star. Since his death in 1975, Prefontaine has become a legend.
His rare combination of talent, discipline, determination, and star-quality with a human touch made Pre the idol of those he called “his people”; the devoted fans who came to watch him run.
The short but successful career of Steve Prefontaine and of other running heroes in the 1970s, like Jim Ryun, Frank Shorter, and Bill Rodgers, were covered widely in the media and inspired many people to give running a try.
With the growing popularity of running, races started raising sponsor money, as elite runners wanted a prize reward for showing their best and to cover their travel costs.
The Boston Marathon, the oldest continuously held Marathon worldwide, started as a free event in 1897, but from the eighties on, participants had to pay an entry fee.
Sports brands started developing all kinds of running gear and cushioning shoes, to make running more easy and accessible, more comfortable and fun. But at the same time, people started to get injured more often as well.
Born to run
Gradually a counter-movement came up with runners that preferred running in a more natural way.
Inspired by the Kalenjin Tribe in Kenya and the Tarahumara Tribe in Mexico, they started exploring trails on minimalistic shoes, sandals or even Barefoot.
Most Kenyan elite runners, who regularly win Olympic and Marathon races, origin from the Kalenjin Tribe.
Daniel Lieberman, Professor of Biological Sciences at Harvard University, studied 300 Kenyan runners from the Kalenjin Tribe since 1987.
His research got him into barefoot running as well. His 2004 publication “Born to Run” contributed to the book with the same title, published by Christopher McDougall in 2009.
Improving the running economy
Lieberman discovered that because we learn to make better use of our muscles when we run barefoot, it reduces the impact on the body, and therefore it improves the running economy.
Despite the benefits of natural running, most of our bodies aren’t used to it anymore, so changing to more minimalistic running too sudden, can lead to injuries.
Moving with nature
In 1999 Danny Dreyer introduced ChiRunning, based on Chinese Tai Chi principles from the 19th century.
ChiRunning is a low-impact running technique that teaches us how to gradually run with less effort and reduce the risk of getting injured.
It is a natural and efficient way of moving forward, using our gravity, while keeping our body and mind in balance.
Endurance runner and biologist Bernd Heinrich published “Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us About Running and Ourselves” in 2001, where he describes his journey of chasing his “Antelope”: running a 100-mile race.
He figured we’re still hunters, looking for an antelope to chase. Although we don’t need to chase our food anymore, we still like to chase our dreams.
His book was re-published in 2002, titled “Why We Run: A Natural History”.
Being frustrated about his continuous running injuries, journalist and author Christopher McDougall started looking into our history of running.
He discovered that the Tarahumara Tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico pretty much still lives, eats and hunts like our ancestors did. They cover many miles on a daily basis without having cushioned running shoes.
It’s the start of McDougall’s ongoing journey, to uncover the lost secrets of strength and endurance.
The Natural Method
In 2008 Erwan le Corre introduced his Movement in Nature (MovNat), inspired by the Natural Method and insights of George Hebert. It is a comprehensive, holistic & mindful approach of the full range of natural human movement abilities.
As an officer of the French Marines visiting remote areas in the world, George Hebert saw primitive tribes in a strong physical shape, being able to take care of their daily needs and life.
On the other hand, he noticed that more civilized people, even his own soldiers, had lost the physical condition and strength, that is essential to deal with challenging life circumstances.
That’s why he initiated the Natural Method in 1905. It was the foundation for the current Parkour, Freerunning and Spartan race.
He identified 10 Basic Natural Movements to test our physical abilities:
Can you run, walk, hike?
Can you throw and catch?
Can you defend and pursue?
Can you climb, leap and land?
Why we keep on running
The reason why we run today doesn’t seem as obvious as for our ancestors, who had to hunt to fill their stomach.
But running still makes us feel alive and aware of the moment, and how we move and grow through time.
And there’s always something you can improve, wether it is endurance, speed, strength or other health aspects.
The challenges of running and the ongoing process of progress makes us feel good.
Running for leisure with a competitive aspect, like a Marathon or other race, has been done since 1829 BC, when the Irish Tailteann Games were organized to honor the goddess Tailtiu.
With the growing popularity of running races, the variety of races has grown too, from a 5K to a multi-days race, and from a Marathon road race to an ultra desert run.
Although the number of races is still growing, there seems to be a gradual shift towards more small-scale trail running and running adventures, with more focus on nature and camaraderie and less on competing.
The freedom of running
What sets running apart from other sports, is that everybody can do it anywhere an anytime, no matter our age, background, income, or education.
There’s a type of training for every kind of runner, lifestyle, experience, goal and interest.
You can run on your own, or combine it with family, friends or work. You can run from home, join a club, or while traveling, in cities and mountains, in snow and in desert. The possibilities are endless.
It also helps you to balance your life and make you feel more happy and healthy.
Running makes you an athlete in all aspects of life.
Resources / Further reading
Arthur Lydiard Foundation
Jogging by Bill Bowerman
George Sheehan, runner, writer, philosopher
The Complete Book of Running by Jim Fixx
The story of the Marathon
Bryant Gumbel w/ Dr. Lieberman on Barefoot-Forefoot Running
What is ChiRunning?
ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running by Danny Dreyer
Why we run
Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich
The Tarahumara – A Hidden Tribe of Superathletes Born to Run
Methode Naturelle 1930s
Movement in Nature by Erwan le Corre
The Roots Of “Methode Naturelle”
The Natural Method (adapted): Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education
Animals vs Humans – Parkour & Freerunning