When was Running Invented? History of the Running

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Brief History of Running (when was running invented?)

If we talk logically then we all are well aware of this fact that how we have evolved to homo sapiens. Like many other living things, our ancestors used to hunt and were capable of making ways to survive when there were no resources.

When you are in a situation, sometimes your instincts respond rather than your pre-planned moves and I feel running was one of them. Thus, we can call it a natural selection at work that helped them to survive even in odd circumstances.

Further, talking about sudden instincts, when you are attacked or you want to attack, running is that one natural instinct that happens without practice. Slowly running became an asset for a hunter.

Additionally, in the modern era to choose the most skilled or physically fit individual out of a group, running could be one that trait was most in demand. Slowly, it became a huge sport. Let’s now delve into the in-depth history of running.

Invention of Running

The foremost fact is that no one invented running. As discussed above, it is the result of the human explosion. Earlier, running was done by attaching shoes to the feet with the help of a cloth and ropes. In the early spring of 1748, Thomas found that he could move more swiftly if the wind was behind him.

Additionally, he realized that his body was warming up as he increased the speed. Also, he found that his shoes remained on him especially at high speed because of the large wrap combination of fabric and leather on his feet.

This was not the first time he was running. During the previous attempt, he was trying to keep the cloth on the foot which was repeatedly interrupted as he tied the boots wrongly, instead of tying to the ankle, he was tying the foot.

Therefore, this wrong method of tying the boots led to awkward transitions and gaps of exposed skin while running at higher speed. If you have ever noticed in old videos, the marathon runners used to walk barefoot to keep their body temperature maintained as their shoes were not capable enough to stay in place.

Brief History of Running as Competition and as recreational Activity

In early 3100 B.C., the ancient Egyptians used to have a festival known as the Sed festival. This festival which is also called Heb Sed used to have massive gatherings which celebrated the Pharaoh’s continued rule. In this, they used running as a symbol.

Sed Festival
Sed Festival

They used to start this festival after 30 years of a Pharaoh’s reign and the interesting thing here is that they used to continue it every 3 years until Pharaoh’s death.

You will be surprised to know that this huge festival comprises various stages. First, the Pharaoh makes numerous offerings to the Gods then there will be a captivating re-crowning ritual that symbolizes that his rule is renewed.

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Coming to the running part, it was basically a course that was designed for Pharaoh to run himself and this course was designed to depict the lands of Egypt. There were a total of four laps that Pharaoh had to run in which for the first two laps, he had to be dressed in the royal regalia of Upper Egypt. Whereas for the last two laps, he had to wear clothing for Lower Egypt.

In continuation, it is still not known what were the consequences if he could not finish the race. However, as per speculations, since the race completely was for ceremonial purposes it just indicated outrunning of the old age.

While, as per other historians, if he was unable to finish the race maybe he was not fit to rule. For that, maybe they used to appoint someone younger with more successor-like attributes.

When Running Was as a Sport?

Practically, there is no such location where I can pinpoint and refer that this was the day and place when running was appointed as a sport. However, believing in the records, back in 1829, the Irish organized a festival to honor the death of their Irish goddess and queen Tailtiu. In this, they used to organize various competitions such as races.

Originally, this festival was the birthplace of the famous Tailteann Games of Ireland, in which the funeral games were played to honor the dead. The impressive thing is that apart from running, other events included high jump, long jump, spear throwing, boxing, archery, sword fighting, chariot racing, and many more.

Not only, besides these games, but the Tailteann Games also used to organize mass marriages where they used to announce the signing of new laws. Another fact is that it is said that the Olympic Games were influenced by the Tailteann Games.

In 776B.C., the very first Olympic Games were held in Greece. The Word Olympics is taken from the name of the place where they were held, which was Olympia. The first Olympic games included only running and there were no other sports included until 724 B.C.

Further, at that time, the running race was called a stadion race which used to be a distance of 200 yards. A stadion was a building just like stadiums that we have in modern times.

Apart from this race, back in 490 B.C., the marathon was introduced by a legend, however, it was not considered a sport. Much later, it was included when in 1896, Olympic Games were reintroduced.

How Running Was Introduced as a Profession?

Yes! Running was invented not only as a sport but as a job as well. Coming to 490 B.C., there was a Greek messenger Pheidippides who was an Athenian day runner for the Greek Military. A day runner is a person who carries proclamations and messages from land to land

Pheidippides played an important role when the Persians invaded and encroached the coastal plains of Marathon in which the Greeks were miserably outnumbered. However, the Greeks still managed to drive them back.

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Statue of Pheidippides along the Marathon Road
Statue of Pheidippides along the Marathon Road

So, Pheidippides was sent back right from the battlefield back to Athens to deliver this message of their victory. The main story is that Pheidippides ran more than 25 miles to announce this message.

Furthermore, when he arrived in Athens after two days, he dropped his clothes just to remove extra weight, and then he proclaimed, “we have won.” after this miraculous announcement, he dropped dead on the floor due to exhaustion.

To honor him and his journey directly from the Marathon, the races were then known as marathons. But they were not included in the Olympic Games at that time, later they were revived and hence included.

In addition to this story, in 1983 there was a race known as Spartathlon which was held in Greece. Though this also revolved around Pheidippides, however, it is about Spartan detouring for an immense 153 miles (246 kilometers).

Additionally, the first winner of Spartathlon was Yiannis Kouros who still holds the record in his name by the fastest time of 20 hours and 25 minutes.

Running as Marathon

Coming to one of the most famous sports of modern times, Yes! a Marathon. Now, the marathons are held everywhere like in America, more than a thousand marathons are organized each year.

People often ask, “why is the marathon 26.2 miles long?” Firstly let me tell you it wasn’t always that long. When in 1896 the first Olympics were held, the events had a marathon which was inspired by Pheidippides.

As I told you in the story above, Pheidippides covered 25 miles to proclaim the victory of the Greeks. It was from Marathon to the original Stadium in Athens which was later followed by the Boston Marathon in 1897.

First Boston Marathon
John J. McDermott – First Boston Marathon

After this, for a significant time, the length of the marathon was 25 miles (40km). However, in 1908, when the venue was changed to London and simultaneously the course also changed.

Also, the runners had to start from Windsor Castle and stop at the Royal Box located at White City Stadium. That was the time when the marathon’s length was set to 26.2 miles and it is like that till now.

How Running Became an Exercise?

In today’s time, running is a natural thing that we see around. Whenever you go out for a walk or even for jogging, you easily find people running to stay fit and sound.

Nevertheless, running was not at all common as you see today. If I tell you that it didn’t gain popularity until the 1960s. It was only athletes who used to run for building and enhancing their endurance and strength.

There were articles published in the newspapers dated back in the late 60s, where the editor has called running a strange activity. At that time, runners felt that they generally preferred running in the morning as in noon and evenings, it used to look suspicious to police.

Adding to this, in 1968 the police stopped a Senator named Strom Thurmond in South Carolina just because he was jogging. The question that arises here is that if there was so much suspicion in running then how did it become popular.

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There was a legend named Bill Bowerman who was running coach at the University of Oregon. He wrote and published a best-selling book which was on and named Jogging. He published it after having a life-changing trip to New Zealand.

In New Zealand, Bill Bowerman noticed their cross-country running events in which he got impressed with the runner’s skill. That was the moment when running started gaining popularity in the 70s when celebrities like Steve Prefontaine did it. Such celebrities helped in building momentum to bring running into a mainstream activity.

After such activities and initiatives by celebrities, doctors take up an interest in the health benefits of running. After much research, the data revealed that even a daily run of 5 to 10 minutes at a speed below 6 mph made a huge positive difference in the fitness of the people.

The impressive thing about this study was that even if people ran daily for small durations, it immensely lowered the risk of death regardless of the cause. Additionally, it decreased the risk of cardiovascular ailment by approximately 45%.

Current Status of Running

As I have tried my best to cover all the aspects of when running was invented. As you progressed in the article, you must have concluded one thing for sure that running was originally never invented.

Moreover, as we as humans evolve with every challenge or incident that happens in our life, running also evolved from various stages and today in modern times, known as a marathon, jogging, running like a race, and many more names.

What we are realizing today is that now it has become an integral part of our lives in the form of profession or sport or recreational activity. In some form or the other, it does exist in every individual’s life.

Besides sports, it is still a famous form of exercise. Even today after centuries, we still celebrate the global running day to mark running as a sport every June.

If I recall this epic journey, we should give credit to Pheidippides for dropping dead at the destination for announcing the glorious message, the legendary coach who focussed and observed the running techniques in New Zealand, and many more unsung heroes.

Before You Go…

The fun part is that if you are an ardent fan of running and want to take up it as your profession then you don’t have to tie your shoes with rope and take a chance if it works or not.

You can just adjust your safety gears, pack your running kit, cushion your feet and work on your stamina to sustain yourself in the race. If you think that you are the best incarnation of Pheidippides then make a good concrete training plan with your coach and start working seriously on it. Luck will definitely follow you in your course! All the best!

Martin from TheGloRunMartin

I’m a big fan of running 5K. I also take part in the marathon in Košice once a year.

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