Why we run

Do you remember Eddie Izzard’s amazing feat back in 2009 when he ran 43 marathons in 51 days?  He was a 47 year old man who did very little prior training and did not have much of a history as a runner.

He wasn’t particularly fast – his first few marathons took around 10 hours.  Towards the end of the adventure he had cut this time in half – still not swift, but still an extraordinary feat of determination and persistence.

I was fascinated watching him on television and one answer he gave to an interviewer’s question really struck home to me.

When asked why he did it, he answered that running is basically what makes us human – we evolved and developed as a species largely because of our ability to run long distances.  He felt that running connects us with our ancestors, take us back to experience the core of our nature as an animal on this planet.

Around the same time Eddie was running all around the country, there was an excellent BBC television series called ‘The Incredible Human Journey’. It was presented by the brilliant (and rather lovely) paleoanthropologist Dr Alice Roberts. She agreed with Eddie’s theory and had scientific evidence to support it.

The series traced the whole history of the modern human species and how they gradually spread and eventually populated most of the planet.

Modern Humans, specifically Homo sapiens sapiens – are a very young species – only around 200,000 years old.

Carl Sagan brilliantly explained just how young the human species is with his theory of the Cosmic Calendar shown on his TV series ‘Cosmos’. He compared the age of the Universe – approximately 13.8 billion years – to a single year on Earth. Imagine that The Big Bang happened on the stroke of midnight, 1st January.

Using this analogy, the Sun and most planets were not even created until 31st August. The oldest known rocks on Earth formed around the middle of September.

Life, in any form, would not appear until early December, and that would only comprise simple bacteria and microscopic life. The first mammals were seen on Boxing Day.

Dinosaurs were wiped out around breakfast time on December 30th.  The first human-like hominid species appeared at 10:30 pm on New Year’s Eve and modern homo sapiens only appear at about 8 seconds to midnight on December 31st.

Is it just me that finds that absolutely mind-blowing?

Using mitochondrial DNA samples, Dr Alice traced the history of all modern humans back to Africa, specifically to the East African Great Rift Valley.  You, me and every one that has ever lived is related to a small band of human hunter gatherers that lived in Kenya around 200,000 years ago – almost certainly we are all descended from a single African woman.

One of the main reasons those early humans succeeded and prospered in East Africa is because they were excellent long distance runners, an ability that was widely utilised in hunting.

Of course, many animals can run faster than humans over short distances, but very few animals can outrun a human over long distances and animals like antelope were hunted by pursuing them to exhaustion, so that they could be captured and killed.

Quite simply, if humans were not good at running long distances, none of us would be here.

***

I had hoped to have a huge mileage week, given that I am now just three weeks away from the Manchester marathon.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

After a good start to the week, with around 40 miles run by Wednesday, I developed a problem with my little toe on my right foot.  I always get really hard pads of skin forming under each little toe, and in addition I got a large blister which formed underneath the hard pad of skin on my right little toe.  After the blister burst, it all got very manky and painful. Because it was right under my little toe, I found normal walking very awkward and painful.  I must have altered my gait to try to avoid putting any weight on my toe, and this caused me to mildly strain my calf.

I was working away at a strategy conference on Thursday and Friday, so running was off the agenda in any case.  Back in Leeds on Friday evening, I put on my trainers, but only made it to the end of the street before turning back because my toe pain was still excruciating.  It was still too bad to run on Saturday, so I missed parkrun this week.

Felling fat and unfit, I did a steady 7.5 miles on Sunday morning, but didn’t think it would be wise to run a proper long run.

Three weeks out from a marathon is the perfect time for the last long run, so I will try to fit that in tomorrow, either before work (Gulp – I am not a morning person!) or probably more likely, after work, which will be easier now that the clocks have gone forward.

Following my run in the Locke Park 20 two weeks ago, I was delighted to receive a £25 Start Fitness voucher in the post for running one of the top 25 age-graded times. I have already spent this on a new pair of Hokas – this time Rapa Nuis, which were on special offer at about £70. Provided that I take to them, I will probably use these as my Comrades shoe.  I wore them for my run today and they felt good.

CM -9 weeks (MM -3 weeks)
Weight 11st 5.6lb
50 Miles
parkrun – None

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