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The evolution of running

Track shorts, check. Running shoes, check. Singlets, check.

When it comes to running marathons, options are, more or less, endless. With the different kinds of marathons available today, you can be sure that there’s bound to be one that’s right for you. Whether it’s a 3k fun run sponsored by an organization to serve a specific advocacy, or a more athletically demanding Ironman Triathlon, which involves swimming, cycling, and running, you’re sure to find a reason to run.

There are a growing number of people today who have shown enthusiasm over these marathons. As more and more people become engrossed in such activities, we’re drawn to ask — why? Besides the obvious reasons of health and fitness, how does the act of running manifest an even deeper desire for freedom from and belongingness to?

Participants enjoyed One Run. One Family. One La Salle., a fun run held in DLSU-STC last August.
Participants enjoyed One Run. One Family. One La Salle., a fun run held in DLSU-STC last August.

A brief history

Although something as simple as running can be considered mundane in our everyday lives, running actually has a long history dating back to the earliest species of mankind. Being bipedals, we were once considered poor sprinters by scientists when compared to other animals that ran for survival.

Eventually, though, humans adapted and became better sprinters, necessary for escaping predators and hunting wild animals. As running played a bigger role in our survival, the ‘fight or flight’ instinct became more apparent. In response to stressful stimuli, our bodies release adrenaline, which causes faster breathing, and an increased heart rate and blood pressure. Psychologists agree that this is a physiological response that became more of a reflex than anything else, an immediate reaction to an immediate threat that didn’t require thinking. Simply put, we run to stay alive.

Competition and community

Running for sport and competition, meanwhile, started in ancient Greece at around 776 BC. Running was considered important to the ancient Greek society, as seen by the various running events hosted in the Olympic Games.

It appears that the dawn of civilization, which ushered in systems and security, also helped the act of running evolve into something more than a survival instinct. It bred the idea of running for recreation and reward, and fostered the idea of running as a way to bring unity and pride to oneself and the community.

One of the reasons people play sports is to push themselves both physically and mentally, and running is no different. “The fulfillment I get from running would be confidence and perseverance […] Perseverance is a result of the constant push when I try to push myself to the limit,” Erielle (II, AEF-BSA) reflects, having seriously started running just last year, and not having stopped since.

On the other hand, Bianca (III, PLS) shares how running in marathons fosters her sense of compassion as she usually runs for causes. “Every marathon I join, I make sure the money I used in paying for the singlet will serve as a donation to an organization.”

Running for spirituality

On the other hand, when it comes to running for spirituality, the Tendai buddhist monks are the first in line. Situated in the mountains of Hiei, Japan, the Tendai monks participate in kaihōgyō, which is an ascetic spiritual training wherein the “marathon monks” or the “spiritual athletes” join the quest for enlightenment. Braving harsh environments and grating climate, the Tendai marathon monks run 30 kilometers a day, everyday for seven years, wearing nothing on their feet but handmade straw slippers.

It’s said that running has become a source of identity for some indigenous groups, who have embraced it as a way of life. The Tarahumara Indians or Raramuris, also known as the superathletes, live in the Copper Canyon of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico. Because most of their kind lives apart, they have to run through the formidable parts of these canyons to send messages, wearing only sandals made of tires and leather straps.

These Tarahumara runners have baffled scientists and professional athletes alike with their impossible speed and tenacity. For them, running great distances at the same speed in their sandals is as fun and natural for them as it is equally harrowing for us. They can supposedly run distances up to 400 miles without stopping. The converse rings true for them — they do not run to live, but live to run.

To each his own

These days we have diverse and unique ways for running. Although it may not necessarily be engraved in our way of life as it is with the Raramuris, we have still embraced running as a fundamental part of being.

Running does not only signify survival and community, but it has evolved through time as more of a solitary activity. “What I enjoy most about running is the freedom that I get, and also a way for me to channel my internal energy. I’m an introvert and I feel as if running gives me the focus and solitude to make me function better in life. It’s not a team game, so whether you run for competition or leisure, you have to show that you are as strong as before. It’s more of a mental toughness,” shares Iggy (III, AE-MGT).

On the other hand, Jovert Latorilla (II-MGT) shares, “Running allows me to keep a healthier lifestyle than I had before, which was no exercise. I also enjoy the fact that you are the one in control in running; you control your pace. If you’re third, slow down. If you’ve rested, speed up. It also gives the space to think and contemplate.”

Other than freedom, a healthy lifestyle, and meditation, Anton (III, MGT) mentions that running gives him a sense of fulfillment. “I relate my running to how I do things in life. The faster I run, the more determined I am to reach the finish line. Whenever I finish a race, it’s like a big check on my bucket list. Finishing a 10km, 21km, 42km or any race gives me the idea that I run for myself to be better.”

Perhaps that is the whole gist of running — to push yourself to the limit, and to continuously strive to be better. Instead of running from something or someone and viewing it as an instinct for the faint-hearted, running is also actually about acknowledging the fact that we want to be alive. Running is where we acknowledge pain and fight it head-on.

Cody Cepeda

By Cody Cepeda

Krizzia Asis

By Krizzia Asis

18 replies on “The evolution of running”


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