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A Human Evolutionary Gift - Distance Running

Old 04-17-2011, 08:35 AM
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A Human Evolutionary Gift - Distance Running

Hey folks,

I've been reading lately about our early evolutionary history, as in the two million years before we started using tools. It appears we won the lottery on more than a few of our design features, opposable thumbs and big brains getting most of the press, but what may have given us the winning edge in the beginning could have been our ability to run long distances in hot weather.

How do you take down a Kudu (a large antelope) with no fangs or claws? Turns out that if you can keep it moving for eight hours in the heat of midday on the plains of Africa it will fall over from heat exhaustion, at which point you can walk up to it and easily kill it.

Our ability to sweat, our bipedal gait, our long arched energy returning foot, our leg muscle and tendon design, everything about us is put together in such a way as to give us an advantage no other animal on this planet has...given time (and our being in shape) we can run any animal out there to death. We did this for millions of years before modern running shoes were introduced in the 1970's.

One thing that gives evidence to our being an endurance running pack animal is that while men perform much faster at short sprints, women are very close at the marathon distance, but it's a toss up whether a man or woman will win a 100 mile race.

Interesting stuff for sure. I'll post some links as I come across them.

Murray
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Old 04-17-2011, 08:40 AM
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Harvard barefoot running study;

Running Barefoot: Home

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Old 04-17-2011, 09:07 AM
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Your post reminds me of the Tarahumara people of northern Mexico, amazing!

Isolated by the most savage terrain in North America, the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons are custodians of a lost art. For centuries they have practiced techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest and chase down anything from a deer to an Olympic marathoner while enjoying every mile of it. Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence.

Amazon.com: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (0066556508308): Christopher McDougall: Books

You have inspired me to read this book
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Old 04-17-2011, 09:12 AM
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Yup, I've been reading about them as well. Of particular interest to me was how a 55 year old Tarahumara (I'm 51) won the Leadville 100; a 100 mile trail run through the Colorado Rockies. Amazing indeed!

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Old 04-17-2011, 09:25 AM
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wow that is truly inspiring!
from that same book...
Any tribe that has 90-year-old men running across mountaintops obviously has a few training tips up its sleeve
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Old 04-17-2011, 10:55 AM
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Did you post this to make me feel bad about how hard of a time I'm having training for my Marathon? Jk...very interesting indeed!

On the flip side...our upright posture is hell on women and childbirth ...one of the reasons that mortality for humans in childbirth is one of the highest around.
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Old 04-17-2011, 11:16 AM
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Thanks for the new thoughts Murray! When I was younger I truly enjoyed running I was always a strong miler in pre high school before I started packing on weight to play football, and I always got a rush out of pushing myself hard. I have toned down my running to just sprints and 1/4 mile bursts for fear that any distance might hurt my knees and feet, but I have contemplated picking it up recently to add to my cardio workouts. This info might be the necessary motivator I needed to start doing some distance again and lose the last 10 or 15 problem pounds, so thank you!!
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Old 04-17-2011, 12:28 PM
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Hi LaFemme...marathon? You Rock!!!!!!!

Originally Posted by LaFemme View Post
...one of the reasons that mortality for humans in childbirth is one of the highest around.
I don't know about that...In college anthropology class I remember reading about native women in the Amazon jungle who lived a pre-contact lifestyle. When they were due to give birth they would quietly walk off into the forest and do it alone. Me-thinks that would, over time, ensure that complications would be minimized because the ones who had "difficult" birthing experiences wouldn't make it back to the village. We must have been doing something right to have lasted this long while so many other species went extinct.

Women do pay a dear price for a babies skull size, that's for sure!!!!

As for after child birth, in 2007 Emily Baer placed 8th overall in the Leadville 100 mile race even though she had to stop at each aid station to breastfeed her baby.

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Old 04-17-2011, 12:56 PM
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Well woman are vastly superior to men as demonstrated by Emily Barr;-)

Spend some time in an old graveyard and read the tombstones...a shocking number are women between the ages of 16 and 25.

Without modern medecine my mother would died with either one of her children...as would half my friends...we don't talk much about it in modern times because medecine has done so much in this area...but compared to animals that walk on all fours we are horrible breeders.
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Old 04-17-2011, 01:12 PM
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And just to be arguementative it is my understanding that humans were superior long distance walkers not runners. For instance I could walk 26.2 miles today without any real trouble but I couldn't run it to save my life. And if i werr to bet on a distance race between one of your people from Mexico and an Arabian endurance horse...I put my money on the horse

There's a reason we domesticated the horse after all
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Old 04-17-2011, 01:54 PM
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I like happy face argumentative types

My bet's on the human given a few conditions that would have existed at around midday in the African heat. Here's a bit from a paper written by Harvard's Lieberman;

Humans, he said, have several adaptations that help us dump the enormous amounts of heat generated by running. These adaptations include our hairlessness, our ability to sweat, and the fact that we breathe through our mouths when we run, which not only allows us to take bigger breaths, but also helps dump heat.

“We can run in conditions that no other animal can run in,” Lieberman said.
While animals get rid of excess heat by panting, they can’t pant when they gallop, Lieberman said. That means that to run a prey animal into the ground, ancient humans didn’t have to run further than the animal could trot and didn’t have to run faster than the animal could gallop. All they had to do is to run faster, for longer periods of time, than the slowest speed at which the animal started to gallop.

All together, Lieberman said, these adaptations allowed us to relentlessly pursue game in the hottest part of the day when most animals rest. Lieberman said humans likely practiced persistence hunting, chasing a game animal during the heat of the day, making it run faster than it could maintain, tracking and flushing it if it tried to rest, and repeating the process until the animal literally overheated and collapsed.

Most animals would develop hyperthermia — heat stroke in humans — after about 10 to 15 kilometers, he said.
Can a horse run all day in over 100 degree heat without resting and being continually kept from water sources? Wolves use teamwork to run down their prey, guiding their prey in wide arcs so the next wolf can keep their prey on the run. Seems we could have done that too.

Here's the full article.

Humans hot, sweaty, natural-born runners

Fun stuff to ponder while sitting on my a$$ in front of a computer

Murray
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Old 04-17-2011, 02:18 PM
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In regards to women this is one of the best documentaries I have seen, has won a ton of awards
WALKTOBEAUTIFUL.COM

The award winning feature-length documentary A Walk to Beautiful tells the stories of five Ethiopian women who suffer from devastating childbirth injuries and embark on a journey to reclaim their lost dignity. Rejected by their husbands and ostracized by their communities, these women are left to spend the rest of their lives in loneliness and shame. They make the choice to take the long and arduous journey to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in search of a cure and a new life.

Told all my girlfriends to watch it, we all had the same reaction crying and donating money to the cause.
Hopefully that's not off putting, their courage is also inspiring
We are so incredibly fortunate compared to most of the rest of the world
For me it is a good reminder to see things like this to snap me out of any pity party I might have going on
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Old 04-17-2011, 02:38 PM
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Another big advantage is that bipedal breath is not tied to our gait.
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Old 04-17-2011, 04:49 PM
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Ok Murray if we are going to limit it to the Serengeti ...what about camels?

I was talking in more general long distance terms...I couldnt run for long in the desert I am also not Masai

I still think we are better walkers than runners...I just got back from an 8 mile walk with the dogs...who finished much stronger than I and also had an off leash romp half way

It would be interesting to see what the folk in the kicking asphalt (exercise thread) thread thought of this article...I will link this thread over there tomorrow if no one beats me to it
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Old 04-17-2011, 09:07 PM
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I'm talking about the early days of Human evolution, where our sweating bare skin and bipedal gait was developed, as hinted at in recycle's Attenborough video clip.

It's been a blink in the evolutionary timeline since pre-Human's began making use of fire and tools, but we still carry the physical traits that made them so successful. Modern city dwelling first worlders may not be able to run down their dinner, but Kalahari Bushmen and the Tarahumara of Mexico still can. I think that's pretty cool.

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Old 04-18-2011, 10:48 AM
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A friend just finished the Boston Marathon in 2:30, 102nd overall...that is freaking insane. I'm going to link this thread over in the runners section...see what those folk have to say
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