The history of running is a bit “hit and miss” really. It would seem as if recreational running and jogging just popped up out of nowhere in the last 20 or 30 years and took the world by storm
Although there are huge gaps, running appears all throughout history - usually as a means to an end. For example, in persistence hunting ancient man ran hundreds of miles tracking and hunting for food
But where and when did we start to run for sport and recreation?
The Gods and Goddesses were the focus for the ancient Greeks and they began the Olympics Games around 2,700 years ago in honour of the God Zeus. At the beginning, the games were only a day long and one of the first recorded events was a sprint from one end of the arena to the other
The Games developed into a four day event and sports such as the Javelin and Discus were added, these games inspired the modern day Olympics which began in 1896
Local competitive running, especially in rural areas of Europe, are also likely to have been started as a result of religious festivals
These festivals such as the Tailteann Games in Ireland were originally “funeral games” held in honour of the deceased and the Goddess Tailtiu. Traditionally they were held in late summer and would finish on Lammas eve (1st August)
All kinds of local sports were included (tug of war, wrestling) but they also included a few running events, one which was long distance
There is debate on when these games started - some proposing 1829 BC, others as late as 632 BC. The Gaelic Athletic Association revived the games in 1924
Fell running across the moors and hills of northern Britain is another example of Religious festival games - for example, in harvest and Easter celebrations. The first recorded fell run took place in Braemar, Scotland in 1040 AD and was organized by King Malcolm Canmore
In more recent centuries the festival games have been revived by the community fairs which have become popular again
Here we encounter another gap in the history of running and we now shoot forward to the 16th century when the term “jogging” was starting to be used and swordsmen were using running and jogging as a training technique. This was very much in the realms of the upper classes and the nobility
This is probably the beginning of running as a fitness tool
Coming a bit more up to date to the late 19th and 20th century, running and jogging were becoming increasingly popular in training regimes as athletics became a Professional sport
In the USA jogging was known as Roadwork and was made popular by Boxers as part of their training techniques
So what kicked off the sudden rise in popularity of recreational running during the last 40+ years?
Well it is credited to New Zealander Arthur Lydiard who formed the Auckland Jogger club, for social and fitness running (although I’m not sure how they get it down to one man!)
In 1962 an American named Bill Bowerman went running with Lydiard in New Zealand and then went home to the USA and published a book called “Jogging” in 1966 which was very successful and the running craze began
It is recorded that 25 million people took up social and fitness running in the USA during the 1970’s, included in that count were the actor Clint Eastwood and ex American president Jimmy Carter
The running boom in America is also said to have been made popular by the Olympic Marathon win of American Frank Shorter in 1972
The 1896 Olympics is directly responsible for the beginning of the Boston Marathon, apparently a group who had been to see the Games were so impressed with the marathon that they decided to hold a marathon race every year
The Boston Marathon has become one of the most prestigious races in the world today; it started with just 18 entrants in 1897, it now attracts over 20,000 entrants every year
In the UK running came hot on the heels of the fitness and aerobic craze of the 1980’s. Since then there has been a steady increase in the number of local running clubs and events
The media coverage of events such as the London Marathon has brought running into everyone’s homes and the added incentive of running to raise money for a chosen charity is certainly an important part of modern day recreational running
The latest running phenomena - barefoot running - takes us full circle back to the beginning of running history when our ancestors ran hundreds of miles to hunt down their prey
Assuming recent theories are correct, we have ran ever since we could stand up right and what the history of running shows us is that we never really give it up
For me, as a 40 something, working class British woman, the best thing about running is the fact that it transcends age, gender and class issues that can clog up certain sports, as well as other aspects of daily life!
Running is truly something we can all take part in and makes for a healthier more balanced life
The history of running is likely to be a long chapter in our civilization, and as long as we still have two legs to run on, I don't see it ever ending... do you?