History of running – a short excursion into history
If you are also a fan of running, you certainly know what excellent euphoric feelings running can cause. It will improve your mood, “clear your thoughts”, help you make new friends, and improve your fitness level or relieve depression. But how old is running, which period does it go back to? So take a short trip into history with us. „et’s move back a few centuries or even a millennium back in time … ready to go?
Where are the beginnings of running in history?
Can we even say that running was invented? Or did it simply appear as a natural part of the life of ancient people? It’s similar to asking what was first – the hen or the egg? The first attempts to run are already documented with Australopithecus (man’s earliest ancestor). He started running for a simple reason – to save his bare life from predators. He only perfected his technique when he started hunting.
Running as a sport in competitions dates back to ancient Greece, Egypt, Asia and even East Africa. Therefore, I guess no one would mind if we say that running has been “invented” due to a specific need or necessity.
We owe the credit to the ancient Greeks
Running was officially born as a sport as early as 776 BC. The thank you goes to ancient Greece, a city with a familiar name – Olympia. Running was also the first discipline at the Olympics ever. Nevertheless, it took quite a while to gain popularity as a social activity.
Let’s move back to the year 490 BC, described as the initial period of a popular discipline – Marathon running. The history of the run mentions one name – a young gentleman named Pheiddipedes. He was given the task of taking news to Athens that his city had defeated the Persians and won. Yes, you’re guessing right – his hometown was called Marathon. The distance between Marathon and Athens at that time was about 25 miles. Legend has it that young Pheiddipedes ran this distance all at once and without a break to announce the fresh news as quickly as possible. After running to the destination, he managed to announce it and fell dead on the ground. And so a marathon run was created, at least that’s what the legend says. It will probably be more challenging to verify the extent to which this legend is true.
1896 – The year when the running started to be taken seriously
The year 1896 was an important milestone not only in the chapter in the history of running but of sport as such. The first Olympic Games took place. They were inspired – as we have already mentioned – by the ancient Greeks. The French philologist Michel Breal is the one we should thank for the modern Marathon as a discipline at the Olympics. At that time, however, Olympic Games were an event for men only. We should not forget to mention the name of Spyridon Louis. This gentleman, by the way, a water carrier from Greece, won the first gold medal for the Marathon at the Olympics. He completed it in a wonderful time of 2 hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds and became a celebrated (not only) Greek hero.
Marathon mania or we run for fun
Let’s teleport us to 1897 when the first Boston Marathon was born. To this day, it is considered one of the most prestigious marathons. The secret is that it was inspired by the Marathon at the Olympics a year earlier.
The year 1909 went into history as the year of the “marathon mania” to be created. Up to 5 marathons were held in New York in 1909 – on Thanksgiving, A. Lincoln’s birthday, the New Year, the birth of G. Washington and the day after Christmas.
The name Frank Shorter and the year 1972 will probably not tell you much. However, the history of the run celebrates him as a modern champion. Frank won the Summer Olympics and his victory started a period known as “boom of run for fun”. Frank promoted running as an activity with many positive effects on health and the psyche. The Americans were so excited that as many as 25 million joined Frank’s initiative that year, including President Jimmy Carter.
The history of running was also about women – who are they?
However, the ladies had to wait much longer. The women’s Marathon was included as an Olympic Games discipline only in 1984; the winner was the American Joan Benoit. However, she was not the very first winner. The first time dates back to 1896 when Stamata Revithi ran an unofficial marathon at the Olympics, but no one took her seriously. The first lady whose time was officially measured at the unofficial run of the Marathon was Violet Percy in 1926.
Even though women have had a more challenging time in history to show their skills and abilities, the current situation is much more favorable. For example, in 2019, 715 marathons took place in the United States alone, a respectable number. Therefore, the running initiative has been very successful and people like this sport, which is very positive information.
In a survey of runners, up to 55% said they were running for fun. 62% mentioned stress relief and 38% health benefits as the main reason. No matter which group you belong to, you will surely agree that running is exceptional and improves health and mood. So the next time you meet a runner who smiles at you, smile at him or her as well and you will definitely have a better day.