The Evolution of Running


Fred Deckert 


Darwin would be puzzled by the evolution of running since the 1970’s. Instead of progressing toward faster runners catching up with game animals or escaping from bigger ones chasing after them, it has become a far different activity. Now, instead of running for your food, you run to avoid the effects of excess food on your body. Back in prehistoric times when you aged and slowed down you were dinner for a quicker predator or enemy. Now we create “age groups” to bolster our self esteem and to keep active longer. We used to leave the fair sex and the kids back in the cave for their protection, now they are out on the road often leading the way in local races.

Civilization has had strange effects on this activity, originally a defense and survival skill. We now sport fluorescent colors that would make us visible bait to a predator for miles. As always, man has shaped the activity to his needs. Now our predominantly desk bound society requires us to revert to this primitive activity in order to control our waistlines and/or stresses. No longer is it necessary to run fast in order to pass on our genes.

Our invention of age group competition attempts to make our running activity a truly democratic sport. Many other sports have masters or senior divisions, but to my knowledge running pioneered breaking down competition into 5 or 10 year age increments for male and female participants.

Certainly this attempt to put everyone on equal footing with their peers has paid dividends. Running and its offshoots now feature competitive events in practically every area of the US. It’s doubtful that there is any other sport that can equal the sheer number of participants in a given weekend. What other sporting event can boast of tens of thousands of participants in a single athletic event as in races like the New York City Marathon, Peachtree 10K, Jacksonville River Run and others too numerous to mention.

So, with all this going on, are you a part of the action? If not give it a try, millions of people already have.