If I had a penny for the number of times people tell me ‘I’m just not made for running’ or ‘humans just shouldn’t run’, I’d probably be a millionaire. People use these soundbites as excuses to even try running. However, human beings have actually evolved to run. In this article, we’ll be looking at why. Enjoy.
Humans can outrun most animals in distance terms
Think of the following animals. Horses, cheetahs, wolves and humans. Who do you think can run the furthest out of these? If you guessed anything other than humans, you’d be wrong. Yes, human beings can outrun most animals on the planet in terms of distance.
Of course, humans aren’t the best sprinters in the world. Usain Bolt famously tried (and failed) to outrun a cheetah in the hundred metre dash. However, humans fare much better in marathons and ultra-marathons as these are long distance events.
Did you know that some long distance races are put on each year around the globe that put humans against horses? You’d think that horses would always win in these events but, in lots of cases, humans prevail. So, what exactly is the trick to humans being able to run long distances for extended periods of time?
Sweat and no fur is a runner’s secret weapon
Humans have 2-4 million sweat glands covering the body. This means humans can run and cool themselves simultaneously, unlike other animals like dogs who have far fewer sweat glands and rely on panting to cool down. Some animals like camels and horses do sweat but far less effectively than humans.
In addition, humans don’t have fur which means they overheat far less quickly than their furry dog, cheetah and lion counterparts.
We have great mechanics for running
We go through two stages continuously whilst running. The areal stage which is when we’re off the ground, and the stance stage when we come into contact with the floor.
While in the air, gravity pulls us down and generates lots of energy. As soon as we hit the ground we decelerate slightly with some energy going to the ground and some being dispersed through sound. However, the majority of the energy goes into legs via the bones and tendons.
tendons and muscles are springy and convert the energy from hitting from the floor to our legs. When it’s time to step off, the springy tendons can make the energy kinetic which means they can spring up quickly to take the next step. Simply put, we have the biological build for running.
Why are humans such good long distance runners?
Scientists believe the reason for humans superiority in long distance running has an evolutionary explanation. 2-3 million years ago, our scavenging and hunting ancestors needed to get their hands on some food (like a gazelle) but didn’t have the same speed as a cheetah or tiger.
Early humans instead learned and developed ‘persistence hunting’ where they would track and chase down an animal over many miles. Though the prey would nearly always get the upper hand to start, the prey would eventually overheat or run into a trap which gave the long distance running human an opportunity to kill the prey for food.
Distance running is great for modern day humans too
Distance running doesn’t have to just be about hunting down prey, though. Distance running has many major benefits for us modern day humans.
Distance running reduces body fat, improves mental health, lowers body weight, reduces cholesterol levels and provides a sense of well being.
Of course, the longer you consistently train for the more benefits you will reap over the long term. I have been running every single day since New Year’s Eve 2018 and have a low body fat percentage, feel mentally alert, experience happiness and have improved mood. I also have a low resting heart rate which sits between 43-52 beats per minute depending on well rested I am.
There you have it. A brief exploration of why humans are born to run. In particular, they’re born to run for long distances. The next time you hear someone say ‘humans aren’t meant to run’, remember the points made in this article and tell them the truth.