I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I’m just not made for running.” Usually, it’s followed up by something like, “I’m too big-boned,” or “I’m not built for it,” or something of the sort. I personally used to believe I wasn’t made for distance running, that surely my body was “made for sprinting.” We produce every excuse imaginable for why we can’t accelerate our walks into movement that brings both feet off the ground simultaneously.
The truth is, running can be very hard if you aren’t used to it. As children, we are born loving to run as fast as we can; one of my 3-yr old daughter’s favorite “games” is running laps in the basement. Children love to play tag, Red Rover, Red Light-Green Light and similar games that require running. But somewhere along the way, we lose the love of movement and embrace the stillness our bodies assume with television, computers, and cars. Admittedly, it’s all very convenient and entertaining. We forget that running once felt easy, natural, and yes, fun. Running becomes work, a drudgery we do to maintain our waistlines and make us feel better about eating bad food. Perhaps if we could all rediscover our inner runner, it would become fun again.
A 2009 New York Times article entitled “The Human Body Is Built For Distance” details some of the evidence that all of us are made to run, as does a 2004 Harvard Gazette article, “Running Paced Human Evolution.”
Biological evidence that human beings are meant to be distance runners includes:
- Short toes: Reduces mechanical work of foot
- Straight big toe: Main push-off in running
- Many sweat glands and little body hair: Cooling system for lengthy runs
- Springlike ligaments and tendons (like the Achilles) in feet and legs
- Ability to store large amounts of glycogen: Fuels up to 20 miles of running
- Narrow midsection: Allows us to swing arms and avoid zigzagging
- Large gluteus maximus: Engaged primarily in running (not walking) to stabilize the trunk
- Nuchal ligament behind head: Keeps head steady while running
- Low, wide shoulders: Almost disconnected from the skull, allowing more efficient running
You ARE made to run…so get off the couch and go DO IT. I think you’ll discover, as I did in 2006, that once you set goals and consistently lace up your shoes, it gets addictive.