Are humans born sprinters or born marathon runners?

Who said that running is not an intellectual pursuit ? There are all kinds of unanswered philosophic questions relating to running - and a billion attempts to answer them :)

Here is just one an interesting answer to the above ( not mine -- but it makes a lot of sense to me)

"Quite obviously we weren't sprinters, because frankly, humans suck at sprinting. Even squirrels outrun us on short distances, let alone true sprinters like gazelle, cheetah etc. Also, we're way too clumsy and noisy to rely on sprinting for survival or hunting. We do have energy systems and muscles for short powerful bursts, which suggests this mode of operation isn't entirely useless to us.

Distance running, however, is something that few animals can beat us at. Only dogs and horses run faster marathons than humans, and both species share a powerful feat with humans for this, namely a good cooling system that prevents overheating - dogs can pant, horses and humans can sweat.

But the endurance running hypothesis doesn't suggest marathon-style running at all, because that's not how persistence hunting works. It's not "find a suitable prey and run after it at a constant pace for three hours", it's "find a suitable prey, run after it to make it flee, let it escape, track it down, repeat for several hours". From my own experience I know that this mode of operation - a mixture of easy jogging and walking, with a few slightly faster bursts and a final sprint to "make the kill" is much easier to maintain than extended periods of constant-paced running."

The above sounds like "How to run a long distance race 101" to me :) - or course, the term "long distance" is relative :)

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11 Replies

  • I love the long run far more than speed... We were built for endurance...

  • I suppose the fast-twitch sprinters would be useful to call in for the kill? I imagine sprinters must put some miles in, though, during their routine training.

  • No - that wouldn't work. The sprinters are very fast -- but they are never there at the end when you need them. No - you are going to have to learn how to do a bit of sprinting yourself at the end of a long run.

  • Interesting, I've read that because men have more fast twitch muscles they are best at sprinting, but women have more slow twitch so tend to do better at endurance, ultra-running.

  • Well, that is only since women have been given the vote -- before that they didn't used to hunt! :)

  • ;-)

  • My PE instructor when I did my national service said that humans are created to lay on the couch with a TV remote in their hand.

    Sadly he then followed it up by saying that since we have been stupid enough to get up on two legs, we might as well get good at moving on two legs. I always hated that last bit!

    It's no good comparing us to horses, because our diet is so different. Come to think of it, there's not much need for sprinting when you eat grass - it tends to not move very quickly.

    But since we are carnivores, we must be hunters and thus sprinters. It doesn't matter that other animals are faster than us (there are also carnivores slower than us). As long as we're faster than our prey we can eat.

  • Still can't outrun the chippy van but working on it :D

  • Have you ever tried to catch a chicken??? :)

  • Have you read 'Born To Run' by Christopher McDougall? He explains how we humans have evolved as bipeds, once we came done from the trees, and managed run long distances to catch our food.

    Here's a little of what he talks about in the book in a TED Talk:

  • Yes - I read that book when I first started out on C25K. It was a good read.

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