Hey taints. Recently I was reading over my senior project and thought that one part of it actually had slight value to society and did not seem like it was written by a seventh grader. Due to its interesting content and our recent drought of articles I thought now would be a good time to share it. I am aware its very long, but I also think its rather interesting, so read if you want to:
There is a common refrain that running is the “original sport”, however this is not true. To characterize running as merely a sport is blasphemous. Running has been so much more than a sport, in fact, the evolution of our species into the dominant species on earth is based primarily in our ability to run.
We start this saga with the Neanderthal Riddle. Contrary to popular belief, humans did not evolve from Neanderthals, instead Neanderthals were a competing species with early Homo Sapiens. Neanderthals were bigger, had larger brains, more muscle mass, stronger bones and were better adapted to the cold than us. They were gifted hunters, weapon makers, possibly acquired language before us and had been around for 2,000 years prior to Homo Sapiens. So why are Homo Sapiens still around and thriving and Neanderthals long extinct?
Dr. David Bramble believes that the answer to this lies in a tiny tendon on the back of the head, known as the nuchal ligament. The nuchal ligament’s purpose is to stabilize the head and in turn increase efficiency when an animal is moving fast. Horses, dogs, and yes, humans have a nuchal ligament. Chimpanzees, pigs and Neanderthals do not. Neanderthals also lacked Achilles tendons, the ligament in your heel that is arguably most important for running. However, there is still a question. Humans are not and have never been fast animals, so what did we gain?
Other anatomical differences provided the answer to that. When four-legged animals run, their internal organs move back and forth causing their lungs to be restricted to a one-breath-per-step cycle. Humans are bipeds and lack this problem and therefore can vary their breathing rates, but generally prefer 2 breaths:1 stride. Further advancing humans is our ability to cool off primarily by sweating. Other running animals that carry pelts (all others) cool off primarily by panting which adds further stress to the lungs and forces them to stop running entirely when they overheat or they will die. These two biological advances point towards humans evolving unlike any other animal on earth, to become the world’s only endurance animal. Early humans hunted by chasing herds of wild game, eventually separating one from the pack and outlasting it. When the animal collapsed, the humans would capture it and consummate their hunt. But the running man didn’t eat much meat as that made it harder to run. Instead his diet consisted mainly of roots and fruits. On the other hand, Neanderthals solely ate meat, which proved successful for them until approximately 45,000 years ago.
This is when the Earth began to warm. Forests were replaced by grasslands and the large meat animals replaced by smaller game. This was terrible for the Neanderthals, who were just too big to keep up in the competitive savannah and eventually went the way of the mammoth. This world was built for runners and running just wasn’t their thing. For Homo sapiens this environment was ideal and with food plenty, their brains began to grow over time, changing into the creature we now know today.
So what does this mean? Running is much more than just a sport. One could argue that running in fact defines humanity as it is the wild card we held that made us into the species we are today. Not to run is wasting the gift of humanity. That is the greatest reason why you should run.