Why running is more than a vestige of caveman times

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It’s not easy to think of something that’s as polarizing as running 一 and that’s saying something, because I’m American. As a high school cross-country athlete turned hobby jogger, allow me to lay out a couple of reasons for running’s most vehement opponents to give my favorite manner of bipedal locomotion a try.

The great outdoors

Ever been outside? Pretty cool, right? There’s something out there (literally) for everyone, and the same goes for running trails.

Many people who dislike running associate it with treadmills or pavement-pounding; I get it, I’m not a fan of those either. Those each serve a purpose, as treadmills are a prudent investment for runners who live in less temperate climates than myself, and road running is good for a hellish suburban tour (and little else), but trail running is where it’s at.

Trails come in countless varieties: single track, hilly, flat, rocky, sandy, packed dirt, loose dirt, dusty, shady, sunny, etc. Forgive me if I sound like Bubba from “Forrest Gump” when waxing nostalgic about shrimp, but I feel that this is the best way to appeal to the Forrest Gump in all of you, the part of you (small as it may be) that wants nothing more than to take a break from everyday life and run.

What I’m getting at is that there’s a trail for everyone. Personally, I’m a big proponent of shady, single track, packed dirt trails; there are some right along NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. Sun tends to make me a little sweatier than I’d like to be, there’s something adventurous about a narrow trail and packed dirt is easy on the knees and shins. Maybe that combination doesn’t suit you, but rest assured that there’s sure to be a combination that resonates with you and encourages you to get more in tune with nature.

History

Maybe you found my questions in the last segment to be leading. “Outside, pretty cool? No way,” you thought. OK, Mr. or Ms. Edward Cullen, you’re a tougher nut to crack.

One of running’s common critiques is that it’s impractical, and if you have a powerful affinity for great indoors then you likely identify with this argument. Why run in a world of planes, trains and automobiles? It’s a fair question, and honestly the health benefits that can be gleaned from jogging can also be attained by playing other sports.

But there’s something primitive about running that makes it special; it’s a shovel with which we unearth our roots as a species. 

Today’s society is far removed from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that cavemen were coerced into by hunger and a subpar understanding of agriculture. Now that we have the opportunity to obtain food from a number of convenient outlets, running is on its surface nothing but a vestige of a time when it was once our primary means of catching breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But there’s something uniquely historic about running. Humans are the animal kingdom’s greatest distance runners (assuming there aren’t any flamingos or other nonhuman species reading this), a result of our unique sweat glands, lack of fur, long legs and dozens of other features. These characteristics kept us alive in the early goings of humanity and have yet to abandon us.

If you suffer from nihilistic wondering about why you were made and what you were made to do, a simple answer is that you were made for endurance running. So give it a go. I’ll see you on the trails.

Ethan Moutes is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].