This blog is inspired by Christopher McDougall's book, Born to Run.
Hither to, my excuse for not doing a marathon has been that human beings were not designed to take that type of beating; that's why people die during marathons - they were not designed for it. I spoke out of ignorance, I knew nothing about running and even less about the design of the human body.
Through Born to Run, I learnt that palaeontologists and anthropologists in their quest to discover whether homo sapiens is a walking creature or a running one concluded that we are a running being and have been uniquely designed not for FAST running but for running LONG DISTANCES.
Our two-legged structure, the build of our Achilles tendons, sweat glands, lack of hair, large knees, a muscular gluteus maximus, the structure of the head and neck is designed to keep us going for miles. Neanderthals, a parallel species to homo sapiens, died out 20- to 30,000 years ago because as they moved from an ice age to a warmer climate they couldn't run - they were snow walkers.
Hunter-gatherer homo sapiens on the other hand, chased animals down until the animal keeled over and died!
All other animals can only breathe once per step. When they lunge forward/down, all their innards push forward helping them to exhale; when they step up, all their organs move back allowing lots of air to flow in. Breathing is also the cooling system used by all other land mammals. A human being, on the other hand, can breathe many times per step and we cool down mostly by sweating.
Therefore, in man vs. deer, whilst the deer can run faster, it can't maintain that speed for very long. Sooner or later it has to slow down and as it does man gains on it and eventually catches up - or the animal passes out. All animals have to stop when they overheat, humans included, or they will die.
Has this been tested? Yes, a South African man lived amongst a hunter-gatherer tribe for four years and experienced it himself. The first persistence run he experienced lasted two hours; he was lucky - all the ones after that lasted three to five hours. It's not for the faint hearted.
So why do some people die on the marathon trail? They are ill prepared. For hunter-gatherers running was a way of life. They were always ready to go because you can't plan when your next ideal kill will appear.
Initial research suggested that humans were ideally suited to persistence running because our upright structure meant we can survive heat better - we don't overheat as easily as our four-legged friends. This turned out to be wrong. Even in the winter the South African experienced persistence running. Hunter gatherers became experts in analysing the behaviour of animals. Some animals are weaker in winter, others on sunny days and yet others can't cope on muddy rainy days. The animal targeted varied by season.
But how do humans stay upright as they run without a tail when all other animals use the tail for balance? The answer: your butt. No, I'm not being rude; the muscle of the buttocks is uniquely designed to help us balance. Who would have thought? The human bum makes up for the lack of a tail.
Now that I've discovered that I was born to marathon, will I join one? Not so fast; I've been idle for far too long. My body is weak but it's something I am now willing to work towards.
Read my brief review of Born to Run here and buy it on Amazon:
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