Running for survival
We started hunting ca 50.000 years ago, running for hours and days, to track, chase, exhaust and catch animals.
Our unique ability to sweat made it possible to endure without getting overheated, while the faster animals needed to rest and cool down.
This way we could keep up with the animals, and at some point, even conquer.
This is called Persistence Hunting and is still practiced today by Tarahumara Indians in the Mexican Copper Canyons.
This tribe runs hundreds of miles, multiple days on a row, to take care of their daily nutrition.
Running the message
Until more efficient ways of transport were developed, running was a common way to transfer a message.
Especially in times of war it was important to have couriers with strong endurance, who could cover long distances as fast as possible.
The most famous message runner was the Greek soldier Pheidippides.
The traditional story relates that Pheidippides (530 BC–490 BC) was sent to Sparta to request help when the Persians landed at Marathon, Greece.
He ran about 240 km (150 mi) in 36 hours. He then ran the 40 km (25 mi) from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) with the word νικῶμεν (“We have won”), to then collapse and die, probably form exhaustion and dehydration and lack of fuel.
To honor Pheidippides, the Marathon was initiated in 1896, as part of the Olympic Games.
Running for religion
The Tailteann Games in Ireland are one of the precedents of the Olympic Games.
The first fair is said to be held around 1829 BC, to honor the Goddess Tailtiu.
These sport festivals were contests of strength and skill, and of competitive running.
The ancient Olympic Games date from 776 BC, honoring God Zeus.
According to the story, the dactyl Herakles and four of his brothers, raced at Olympia to entertain the newborn Zeus.
He crowned the victor with an olive tree wreath, which became a symbol of peace.
The other Gods that lived on Mount Olympus, also engaged in running, wrestling and jumping contests.
The modern Olympics Games started in Athens in summer 1896, with 241 athletes from 14 countries.
It has now grown to a worldwide event, with ca. 10.500 competing sport professionals, representing 204 nations and 35 different sports.
The Olympic Games take place every four years. The Winter Games are smaller and follow two years after the Summer Games.
The symbolic fire was first lit in 1928 during the opening of the Olympic Summer Games in Amsterdam.
Since 1936 the torch is carried from Olympia to the Olympic host city, starting weeks before the opening ceremony.
His stunning victories and achievement of four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin have made Jesse Owens the best remembered of all Olympic athletes.
His outstanding performance during the Olympics not only discredited heinous claims of the dictator, Adolph Hitler, it also affirmed that individual excellence rather than race or national origin, distinguishes one man or woman from another.
Meditation through Movement
According to a Buddhist tradition in Japan, the so called “Marathon Monks” living on Mountain Hiei, have to run 1000 Marathons in 1000 days to reflect on life and to reach enlightenment. On their journey they enter ca 250 temples per day.
Only 46 monks have completed the challenge since 1885. They run the distance on straw sandals.
After the 1000 days they have to survive for 9 days without food, water and sleep to get as near to death as possible, and to become one with the universe.
If they succeed they become living saints, and nowadays they become tv-celebrities as well.
It takes 7 years to complete the challenge, but the monks have to devote themselves and serve the temple on Mountain Hiei for 12 years.
The ongoing running evolution
We’ve always been running and we keep on running.
Read further to see how the evolution of running continues.
Resources / Further reading
Great running messengers of the past
Irish goddess Tailtiu
What I learned when I met the monk who ran 1,000 marathons
Kaihōgyō; circling the mountain