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Running Down Memory Lane - Running & Diversity!

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Running is the most primitive and ancient form of movement known to man. Ever since man learned to stand up straight, he started to wonder what it would be like to walk really fast or how he could cover a greater distance in a shorter amount of time. The answer was as simple as ‘running'. Initially, running was a necessity. It served many purposes; it was a means of transport, a method of fleeing danger, a mode of migration, a means of hunting & scavenging, and an integral part of warfare. There were countless other reasons for running but it became a recreational activity after the advent of the Egyptians around 4000 BC. Long distance running was still a myth and wasn't popular as a sport, it was 6,000 years later before the first ever Olympiad was help. The initial thirteen Olympiads incorporated running as a sport, but the distance of the races were still very short; less than 1000 meters. The first marathon race in the Olympics took place in 1896 and was won by Greece. It was an unusual event for the Summer Olympics and there weren't many athletes that were prepared to run the non-lucrative marathon distance, aiming for a medal. Fast forward to present day, things have changed dramatically. Running in itself can now bring different communities, races and ethnic groups together. In fact, it unites different nations on a single platform.

Distance running as a competitive sport - An example of Kenyan Bio-diversity

Distance running was initially dominated by Americans and Europeans. This was a given, since many nations did not participate in the events of the Olympiad. Many of the African nations weren't even independent countries yet. The participation from poorer (or third world) countries was very low. Most of the long-distance races were won by Americans, Australians and Europeans. Almost a century later, things have turned around dramatically. Many of the elite runners are now Africans particularly Kenyans, but it wasn't until the 1980s that the world began to see this drastic change. Call it 'newly acquired African exposure', catching up late with western methods or their improved training; Kenyans are now world leaders in long-distance running. The men's department started excelling in the 1980s when they had western competitors along with other African competitors such as Ethiopians. Kenyan women, however, proved their mettle later in the 2000s. This was due to the changing Kenyan culture which is now more flexible towards women athletes.

Kenyan success in long-distance running can be attributed to a number of different variables including factors such as genetics, socio-economic disposition, early childhood habits and the geographical location in which they live. However, this doesn't take away from the hard work and dedication each athlete puts in to achieve the highest accolades in distance running.

Running brings us together because we all run for the same reasons

Many runners, who love running and run regularly, do not aspire to participate in the Olympic long-distance events or any high-level competition. Yet, there are many different reasons why running is such an integral part of our lives. No matter what part of the world we come from, or what community we belong to, the reasons could be narrowed down to a few:

  • We run to stay healthy and fit. The health benefits of running are numerous. Countless times, science, and research has proven that running is one cardiovascular exercise from which our bodies reap numerous benefits.
  • For many, running is about breaking our personal bests. This is a different kind of competition compared to running against an opponent; we run against ourselves. We try to improve and outperform what we did previously, and strive to be smarter, faster and healthier. This is one motivating factor most runners find extremely attractive. To compare yourself with what you were yesterday, to constantly work on yourself, and to become a better & stronger version of yourself.
  • Another very broad reason is weight loss. There is a large community of runners that run for this reason. Many people run just to lose the extra calories they've stored as fat. Obesity is a pandemic that is affecting people from all over the world and running is one antidote that has proven to be extremely effective. Running is simple and convenient if a proper program is followed.
  • Running is also used as an anti-stress agent. Feeling stressed and bogged down? Try running a simple 5K and you may realize what is being stated here. There are many people who choose running as a means of exercise simply to clear their mind of clutter and the pressures of daily life.
  • There are many forms of long-distance running, like trail running and cross country running. Such variations bring nature lovers together. It doesn't matter if you're living in Wisconsin, in the Andes, or near the wetlands of Africa, running is one sport that can get you closer to nature and bring many people from different cultures together in one large unique setting. It is an activity that you can use to create your own adventures. In fact, it can only enhance your life experiences.

Running unites us in many different ways, and makes us forget the things that set us apart. We, as runners are different in our own individual ways but when it comes to running, we are one. In running, we have the same goals, dreams and reasons. It doesn't matter which race, creed or geographical location we are bound to, running will always enable us to celebrate human bio-diversity. As Dean Karnazes, Ultra-marathoner and the author of Confessions of an All-Night Runner, beautifully states:

“I run because if I didn't, I'd be sluggish and glum and spend too much time on the couch. I run to breathe the fresh air. I run to explore. I run to escape the ordinary. I run…to savor the trip along the way. Life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I like that.”

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