Are We Born to Run?
Not long ago, I read a book called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. In the book, McDougall raises the question, “Are humans born to run?” For many people, the quick and obvious answer is no. If you look at humans, we look nothing like running machines. The average person is not muscular, but instead overweight. Most people have very little stamina for running, and in even short distances are overwhelmingly slow. Even if you compare humans to the rest of the animal kingdom, we are almost always slower. For example, there are animals like cheetahs that are the pinnacle of speed. You even have large animals like bears, rhinos, and various other large animals that are capable of running well over 20 miles per hour. In order to see that humans might be born to run, you need to look past the modern world and avoid looking at short distance sprints. Where humans are most likely to excel is in distance running. At first this may seem like a joke, but there is evidence there to support this idea.
The traits appear to be specifically adapted for running—and for jogging for long distances. So Bramble and Lieberman were not at all surprised that a man won the Man Versus Horse Marathon. It fits their hypothesis. Unlike many mammals, not to mention primates, people are astonishingly successful endurance runners, "and I don't think it's just a fluke," Lieberman says. He and Bramble argue that not only can humans outlast horses, but over long distances and under the right conditions, they can also outrun just about any other animal on the planet—including dogs, wolves, hyenas, and antelope, the other great endurance runners. From our abundant sweat glands to our Achilles tendons, from our big knee joints to our muscular glutei maximi, human bodies are beautifully tuned running machines. "We're loaded top to bottom with all these features, many of which don't have any role in walking," Lieberman says. Our anatomy suggests that running down prey was once a way of life that ensured hominid survival millions of years ago on the African savanna.
The article that I picked is excellent and goes on to explain various other ways that humans may have evolved to be distance runners. I would encourage everyone to read the article as it goes into much more depth. I would also suggest reading Born to Run because it presents much of the same information in a more entertaining way. There are many different physical features of humans that force the question, "Are we born to run?"