When Was Running Invented? [The History of Running and Its Evolution]

These days running is a wonderful sport cherished by many people. While others run for fun, some do so to stay fit, lose weight, or build muscles. But have you ever wondered about when running was invented? The truth is, nobody knows. However, the legend is that running was invented by Thomas Runner in 1784 when he attempted to walk simultaneously. Nonetheless, this information is disputed because it lacks accuracy. Studies suggest that running has existed throughout human history.

Running is worldwide, and competitions are held to declare the best runner. The competitions are held in schools, colleges, and some workplaces engage in the sport for team building. In the yesteryears, it was introduced in Olympics.

The History of Running

The History Of Running

Back in the earlier centuries, our ancestors practiced running for one reason; survival. Running long distances was the key to survival. It was possible to run long distances at the origin of the modern human body form. 

According to evolutionary theory, the ability made us human in the anatomical sense. The early ancestors of humans (ape-like creatures) known as Australopithecus took around 4.5 million years to walk upright on two legs. 

Around 3.6 million years ago, our ancestors developed the ability to run long-distance, according to studies done from fossil evidence of certain individual features of the modern human body.

Studies show that the early human had become great at running long distances since it was a daily practice for hunting animals. It required stalking and chasing prey until it couldn’t be set free. The best hunters were the fastest runners. Studies claim that those who couldn’t hunt didn’t survive. 

Research claims that many physical traits strongly advocate that the ancestors evolved as long-distance hunters. Some of these traits include:

  1. The separating of the shoulders allowed the human’s body to turn while the head looked forward during running.

2. Skill features that aid in controlling overheating during running.

3. A taller body with a skinnier pelvis, waist, and trunk.

4. The development of bigger buttock muscles empowered stabilization and power while running.

Even at that time, running was a natural competition to survive.

Running as a Symbol

Ancient Egyptians utilized running as a symbol in the Sed festival as early as 3100 B.C. The festival is called Heb Fed, a monumental occasion celebrating the pharaoh’s continued rule. 

It was introduced thirty years after the pharaoh’s reign and continued every three months until he died.

Several stages were part of the festival. The pharaoh would give different offerings to the gods. A grand ‘re-crowing’ ceremony was held that symbolized the rule renewal.

The pharaoh would run four laps on the course that was constructed to symbolize the lands of Egypt. In the four laps, his clothes changed twice. In the first two laps, he dressed in the royal regalia of Upper Egypt, and for the other two laps, he wore Lower Egypt clothing. There were consequences for not finishing the race, although it is no longer known. 

According to some historians, running wasn’t just for ceremonial purposes; it was more practical. The pharaohs who didn’t finish the race were found unfit to rule and were immediately sacrificed to make room for younger successors with strong-built bodies.

Running as a Competition 

It isn’t known when running started as a sports competition. However, studies indicate that the earliest event occurred in Ireland in 1829 B.C. The Irish people held a festival to pay tribute to the death of the Irish goddess and queen Tailtiu. It was during this time many competitions took place, including races.

The festival gave birth to the Tailteann Games, which were funeral games to honor the dead. Other sports included high jump, long jump, spear throwing, boxing, and archery. Between the events, mass marriages took place, and the signing of new laws was announced. These games somehow influenced the Olympics.

The Olympics


The first games were pioneered in 776 B.C in Greece. Olympics derived from a Greece town called Olympia, and running was the only sport. Greece introduced other competitions in 724 B.C. The running competition was two hundred yards and was known as the stadion race. 

The stadion’s architecture was similar to today’s current stadiums, and the word stadium is derived from stadion. In 490 B.C, the legend inspired the marathon but was re-introduced in the Olympic games in 1896.

Running as a Profession

Running was introduced as a job in 490 B.C by a Greek messenger Pheidippides. Pheidippides was an Athenian’ day runner’ for their military in Greek history. The official term for day runners is hemerodrome which translates to courier. The day runners took messages or any other information from land to land.

Pheidippides is acknowledged as part of a vital history when the Persians invaded Greece. They took the coastal plains of the marathon, and unfortunately, the Greeks lost. But a miracle occurred, and the Greeks managed to take them back. 

Pheidippides was sent to Athens to announce the victory. He ran over one hundred and fifty miles to deliver the news. He had a stopover at Sparta to get reinforcements, although Sparta declined his request.

He reached in two days and gave the announcement upon arrival while he dropped his clothes to take off the extra weight. He then dropped dead after the announcement due to exhaustion.

To honor him, the races we know now became Marathons. It didn’t progress into the Olympics until modern times. 

In Greece, in 1983, a lesser-known race was held called Spartathlon. The runners had to run two hundred and forty-six kilometers, and the first winner was Yiamis Kouros, who still holds the record of twenty hours and twenty-five minutes.

Modern Marathon

Nowadays, marathons are held worldwide. In America, over 1100 marathons take place. Back in time, marathons were forty kilometers long. When the first Olympics marathon was held, it was inspired by Pheidippides. The next marathon was in Boston in 1897. In 1908, the venue changed, and the marathon’s length was adjusted to 26.2 miles and is the same to date.

The Final Word

Despite the widespread popularity of the running sport, it is not clear when running was invented. Although the legend has it that running was invented in 1784 by Thomas Runner when he attempted to walk twice at the same time, this theory is devoid of accuracy. Studies suggest that running is as old as humankind since early humans were long-distance hunters who relied on running for survival. To date, the truth about when running was invented is a mystery!

Reference 1: Who invented sitting, walking, and running? » Webnews21

Reference 2: When Was Running Invented? A Brief History Of Running — (runnersblueprint.com)

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