How Humans Evolved To Become The Best Runners On The Planet

Running may feel like a mammoth task for most of us. But did you know our species have evolved to run better than any animal on this planet?

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Following is a transcript of the video:

Cheetahs are the fastest land animal in the world. But did you know that humans can leave them in the dust? At least, in the long run.

That’s right, when it comes to endurance, we can outrun wolves, cheetahs, and even horses.

Now, in the beginning, humans fall short because we’re lousy sprinters.

Case in point, Usain Bolt couldn’t outrun a cheetah in the 100-meter dash if he wanted to, and he tried. But marathons and ultramarathons are a whole other ballgame.

Each year, a small town in Wales holds the Man Versus Horse Marathon. It’s a 22-mile race between riders on horseback and runners. And, while horses often win, humans will sometimes prevail.

So what makes humans such endurance running superstars?

The secret weapon is our sweat. We have 2-4 million sweat glands all over our body, which means we can run and cool ourselves at the same time. Having no fur is also a huge plus.

In contrast, dogs rely on panting to cool down, and other animals, like horses and camels, also sweat, but less effectively. As a result, they overheat faster and must slow down sooner.

The mechanics of our running stride also makes us particularly well-suited for endurance running. A human’s running gait has two main phases: Aerial when both feet are off the ground and Stance when at least one foot touches the ground.

While in the air, gravity pulls us down, which generates a lot of kinetic energy. However, the second we hit the ground, we instantly decelerate, losing that kinetic energy in the process. 

Here’s where our special adaptations come in. The tendons and muscles in our legs are very springy. They act like a pogo stick, converting kinetic energy from the aerial phase into elastic potential energy, which we can use later.

In fact, our IT band can store 15-20 times more elastic energy than a chimpanzee’s similar body part, the fascia lata. When it comes time to step off, those springy tendons can turn 50% of that elastic pogo-stick energy back into kinetic, making it easier to propel forward. Without that extra energy, we’d have to exert that much more effort just to take a step.

So, why did humans get to be such great endurance runners, anyway?

Some anthropologists believe this became important around 2-3 million years ago, when we started hunting and scavenging. Because we couldn’t chase down a gazelle like a cheetah, early humans learned persistence hunting. Where they would track prey over long distances until the prey either overheated or was driven into a trap.

In fact, persistence hunting remained in use until 2014, such as with the San people of the Kalahari Desert.

But distance running can still help you, even if you’re not interested in running down your next meal.

Studies show running can lower body weight, body fat, and cholesterol levels. And the longer you train, the greater the health benefits. Just one year of training has been shown to reduce body weight by about 7 lbs, lower body fat by 2.7% and decrease resting heart rate by 2.7%.

It may seem really hard, and maybe even impossible to run a mile or a marathon. But in fact, you were born to go on that run. We all were.

Author Since: Sep 20, 2018

  1. You also need to consider the will to train our endurance. The average human nowadays probably can't run more than a mile without collapsing because most of us aren't conditioned to do so.

  2. Notice how he admits it's what the "scholars" believe. Evolution is a belief system and carbon dating is only mostly accurate to a point where it becomes less so

  3. Humans gets a head start in that race against horses and if you look up The winners in those races 7 out of 10 times The horses still wins. How about some honesty? And what good does it do to be great at endurance running? What if you're being chased by some animal? What are you gonna do? Jog and hope for The best? Ever noticed that whilst being chased and survival mode kicks in you ain't gonna Jog. The natural response is to sprint as fast as you possibly can. Which isn't a surprise at all.

  4. So we are not the fastest or strongest but if they give us a handicap headstart then we are the best…..this sounds like child logic. Also im pretty sure horses have more endurance, we have used them for long distance travel for thousands of years.

    Basically what you're saying is that if we take the most fit human on the planet, give them a headstart before letting the most avg horse go then and only then will the human be concidered the best runner…..fml.

  5. Saying we are the best runners on the planet is a bit of a stretch. Best mammals over long distances, sure, but if you throw in birds (particularly Ostriches) I would reckon we aren’t even close (being bipedal allows them, like us, to breathe and run at the same time; bird lungs are hyper efficient in drawing out oxygen; their air sac system allows them to cool down while breathing; etc.)

  6. Imagine being run down to the point of absolute exhaustion. You’re too tired to defend yourself from this hungry human that has been chasing you for hours. You just accept your fate and become dinner.

    Thats how humans do

  7. If we’re suppose to be the fastest ,then why can my small chiwawa dog sprint way faster than I can,probably cause when we go for a race he just tries to chase me