History of Competitive Running


Running is, along with strolling, one of both modes of bipedal locomotion of the person. Defined by a suspension stage during which neither foot touches the ground, it lets you relocate a lot more energy-efficient than walking for rates varying from concerning 6 km/h (ultramarathon) at greater than 40 km/h (sprint). Along with its locomotor feature, it is primarily exercised as a sport in the context of athletics and also as a physical exercise.

Unlike walking and the trot and gallop of quadrupeds, it has an energy efficiency that is not very dependent on speed (about 200 mL of oxygen per kilogram per kilometer), which allows a wide range of locomotion speeds. Running makes humans a poor sprinter compared to quadruped mammals but gives them great stamina, absent in other primates and rare in mammifers1. These abilities are linked to an anatomical evolution that appeared in the Homo genre, the question, in this case, would be whether the appearance of endurance racing is a feature of development or a collateral effect of it remains open2.


The origin of the race would be the ability acquired at least four and a half million years ago by the Australopithecus to walk standing on both legs in the Australopithecus trees, perhaps derived from a primitive primate also biped 15 million years old.3 This bipedalism was occasionally used to move in the trees but permanently for walking and running.

The proposed theory considers that the Homo genus has specialized in the long-distance race and that the competition is the result: the transition from quadruped to bipedalism having lost the possibility of running a short distance at the fastest possible speed, the Homo genus developed the endurance race, about two million years ago, to practice scavenging and then the hunt for exhaustion. The quest for depletion is costly in energy; the scavenging of the beginning has allowed the man to have access to a diet richer in protein and lipids (fats). This diet gave him enough energy to be able to endure and follow his prey until they were too exhausted to escape. This ability was enabled by twenty-six morphological and anatomical adaptations such as the development of the nuchal ligament and gluteal muscles, the multiplication of sweat glands over the entire body surface (unlike most animals and mammals), the rotation of the shoulders independently of the head and the increase of shock-absorbing organs (Achilles tendon, joints of the foot and knee, vertebral discs, long foot with a large arch but shorter toes to resist the tension forces generated by running), etc.

The running competitions were born during the ancient religious festivals of various regions such as Greece, Egypt, Asia and the Rift Valley in Africa. The Tailteann Games, an Irish sports festival founded in the 19th century B. C., are one of the first examples of competitive racing.5

Running in the sense of athletics

Running is a sport of running longer or shorter distances. Competitions can be held on an athletic track, on the road or various natural grounds. In France, competitors must be licensed or provide a medical certificate to the organizers for insurance reasons. Depending on the distance traveled and the speed, the type of effort supplied is different:

  • Aerobic running, the oxygen (through ATP) needed by the muscles is mainly provided by cellular breathing (e.g., a slow 10 km run).
  • Anaerobic running, the oxygen (through ATP) needed by the muscles does not arrive in sufficient quantity, VO2max (maximum flow of oxygen that an individual can inspire) is therefore reached. To provide enough energy to the muscle, glycogen (transformed glucose stored in the liver and muscles) is consumed. After its use it is oxidized via pyruvic acid as an intermediate metabolite, and is converted into lactic acid, which also produces (partial) energy through fermentation, but which at some point prevents the continuation of anaerobic activity, the calcium level in the muscles becoming too high (e.g. a fast race over 200 m).

Running athletes regularly evaluate their maximum oxygen consumption and maximum aerobic speed. It is the ability to transport oxygen from the lungs to the muscles.

Track races range from 60 m to 10,000 m, cross-country races from 4 to 12 km. Road races can be any distance, but the miles used are 5 km, 10 km, half marathon (21,097 km) and the marathon (42.195 km). The 100 km race is a running event owned by the grand-fond family. The most mythical of the French 100 km, a relatively confidential discipline (less than 2 000 riders), is that of Millau.

Running competitions on foot, track or road are subject, for France, to the rules of the French Athletics Federation (FFA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). They are open to the disabled. Other federations are involved in multi-discipline events, such as triathlon, modern pentathlon, raid nature, and orienteering (racing and card reading).