This is an interview with the author of the book, Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human by Vybarr Cregan-Reid:
We Evolved to Run – But We’re Doing It All Wrong, Simon Worrall, National Geographic, 30 July 2017
The author, Vybarr Cregan-Reid, says that thinking about running as a slow, meditative practice provides more benefits than viewing it as a sport. The kind of running he’s talking about is more akin to jogging. Wkipedia defines jogging as “a form of trotting or running at a slow or leisurely pace.”
For our remote ancestors, the ability to run over long distances in pursuit of prey, such as ostrich or antelope, gave us an evolutionary edge – as well as an Achilles tendon ideal for going the distance.
Most people dislike running because they have memories of things like running for a bus. That kind of running is usually deeply unpleasant, almost vomit-inducing. Most beginners give up when they get injured because they’ve done too much, too soon. Most of the benefits from running derive from going very slowly.
[Running] is something innate to who we are as a species. It’s a means of getting in touch with the environment and our own thoughts. It’s also a way of releasing some of those body-made endorphins, almost like a “legal high,” that is actually good for us.
Many aspects of our anatomy, from the tips of our toes to the top of our heads, are specifically there to make us good runners. We have a certain ligament called the nuchal ligament, which stops our heads from tipping forward. The fact that we have such flat faces, and teeth that are shoved quite far back in our heads, are also all about enabling us to have a good center of gravity while we’re running.
Being bipedal, moving around on two feet, means only about 40 percent of our bodies is exposed to the midday sun, compared to 70 percent in most mammals. As a result, we’re able to keep cooler. … When it comes to sprinting, we are awful compared to other animals. But over certain distances, we are better than anything else on the planet.
If we were chasing down an antelope or a zebra, they would leave us in the dust over the first few hundred meters. But because we’re able to lose heat much more efficiently than a quadruped, we became more effective hunters over longer distances. Having a nervous system that can produce pain-killing endorphins also helped.
The treadmill was invented in the early 19th century, when penal philosophers were trying to work out a punishment that was just short of the death penalty. So for well over a hundred years the treadmill was something that people were punished with! Oscar Wilde was one of them. He went to prison in 1895 for two years’ hard labor and found himself working a treadmill for up to six hours a day. It practically killed him. When he came out of prison, he died about three years later.
Then there was a phenomenal PR job done on the treadmill, and after disappearing for about four decades, it was rebranded after WWII.
[Running] makes us more intelligent, de-stresses us, and makes us fitter. It gets us away from technology, allows our brains to rest, and encourages creativity. Running can be all that.
Here’s his book:
Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human, Vybarr Cregan-Reid, July 2017
From Amazon’s description:
Running is not just a sport. It reconnects us to our bodies and the places in which we live, breaking down our increasingly structured and demanding lives. It allows us to feel the world beneath our feet, lifts the spirit, lets our minds out to play, and helps us to slip away from the demands of the modern world.
Footnotes transports you to the deserted shorelines of Seattle, the giant redwood forests of California, and to the world’s most advanced running laboratories and research centers. Using debates in literature, philosophy, neuroscience, and biology, this book explores that simple human desire to run.
I don’t run. I don’t jog. But I do walk, sometimes jauntily. Do you think some of the benefits (my next post) still apply?