Steve Schallenkamp: Were humans born to run? One woman’s journey of discovery | Sports

Jessica Wong

Recently I made the assertion that running was primordial, meaning existing from the beginning from our earliest development. In the distant past, humans survived by being hunters and food gatherers. Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists have concluded that this need resulted in humans adapting and becoming the best endurance animals on […]

Recently I made the assertion that running was primordial, meaning existing from the beginning from our earliest development. In the distant past, humans survived by being hunters and food gatherers. Anthropologists and evolutionary biologists have concluded that this need resulted in humans adapting and becoming the best endurance animals on the planet.

The top speed a human can sprint is approximately 23 miles per hour. In the animal kingdom, that is slow. A lion can run up to 40 mph and a cheetah nearly 80 mph. Humans were not going to outrun their prey.

Humans are bipedal and relatively hairless. These features allow us to regulate our body temperature through sweating better than other animals. Other animals overheat when they run too far.

By tracking and chasing prey over many hours, humans ran their prey into heat exhaustion. Foraging for food meant being on the move and on your feet for a long time. This “endurance training” needed to be repeated over and over. This process meant going slow, and, over time, humans developed into amazing endurance creatures.

Running long distances fast as a sport or for competition is a relatively modern activity for humans. In the first Olympic Games, the only running event was the Stadion, which was 180 meters. In the second half of the 19th century, Pedestrianism became very popular.

Pedestrianism referred to six-day running or walking races. The winner was the person who covered the most mileage in 144 hours. Cash prizes were enormous and much larger than an average man’s salary.

When the Olympics were reborn in 1896, the marathon was included as an event. It was included to honor the Greek victory over the Persians and probably to take advantage of Pedestrianism’s popularity.

From an evolutionary standpoint, we probably can say humans were “born to run.” However, we must realize that this biological fact is in regard to very long, slow distance running. The modern-day invention of racing long distances as fast as we can, as a form of competition, must be approached carefully and with systematic and prudent training.

Reader’s Corner

Today’s Reader Corner submission is by Faithe Anderson, a mother, bookkeeper, and ultramarathoner from Saugerties, N.Y.

“You won’t be reading about fast times, or Boston Qualifiers or winning Western States when reading about my running journey.

“You aren’t going to hear about how I started in cross country in high school, or was on athletic teams, or even chosen first in gym class.

“You aren’t going to hear about podiums, or trophies, or gold medals and awards ceremonies.

“Hi, my name is Faithe Anderson, and I am a middle to back-of-the-pack runner. I run because I love to run. I run for the freedom and joy I feel when I lace up my shoes and hit the road or the trail or even the treadmill in winter. I had run races of every distance, from 5K to 24-hour endurance runs to a 635-mile virtual race across Tennessee when COVID struck, and all races were canceled.

“I’m not fast. I’m not naturally inclined. I’m just a regular, everyday lover of the run.

“My story doesn’t start in grade school or high school, or collegiate sports. My journey started when I was 48.

“I was coming through one of the most challenging periods in my life and had been on every medication known to mankind to deal with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. I had lost over 100 pounds (very much needed), and with the urging of my daughter, Ingrid, had joined a local gym. She knew I needed some self-esteem and to blow off some steam. As a mom of seven kids, who I was  homeschooling at the time, adult socialization was minimal, and ‘me time’ didn’t exist.

“At the gym, I found myself. I found other women to talk with and sweat with. I found trainers who built me up, and I found my self-esteem.

“I was strong.

“On Sundays, a few of these ladies would run a loop from the gym, around Saugerties, and back — six miles. I wanted to run that loop with them but had never run an inch in my lifetime. My mom had drummed it into my head that running was a thing for other people. I was too chubby and too clumsy to run.

“One morning a trainer at the gym wanted us to run around the street of the gym, and I literally broke down and cried. Ugly crying. Snot and tears. All of it. She came over and asked what was wrong, and I said, ‘I can’t run. I’m too fat, my mom said.’ I was 48.

“It’s amazing how deep those things go! Another woman in the group came to me and said, ‘Come on, I’ll do it with you.’ And so, off I went around the block and BROKE that block in my head!

“‘Your mother was wrong,’ yelled the trainer.

“And I was off!

“My first goal was a 5K. The swim club I belonged to was holding one for members, and it was 10 weeks away. I started by running one telephone pole to the next and then walking two poles.

“Day by day, I added a little bit. I walked less, ran more. I still walk in my runs as I like to. I don’t see walking as a bad word! It allows me to go farther and recover quicker.

“I ran that 5K and finished somewhere in the middle.

“Then, wonders of wonders. I showed up one Sunday morning to the gym run, and I ran that 6-mile loop. It took me an hour and 10 minutes, but I felt as if I had won the Olympics!

“After that, (I made) the typical progression to a 10K, 15K, half marathon, and then I wanted to train for a marathon.

“A few women at the gym also wanted to train. They dropped once the long runs got to 15 miles.

“On the other hand, that is where I started to feel invincible. At that 15-mile point, I felt I could go on forever in that ‘zone.’ I started to look forward to building miles: 15, 17, 20 … each week, a couple more, and then a recovery week.

“I ran my first marathon in November 2015 in Bucks County, Pa. I was 51 years old. I came in nearly last. But I was thrilled!

“I ran Norrie Point that January (50K) and also finished near DFL (Dead Freakin’ Last). Again, I was thrilled.

“I joined the Onteora Runners Club and the Shawangunk Runners around that time and found there was an entire amazing, loving, fun community of like-minded people to run with. I immediately became active, first by running as many events as possible, including group training runs and races; then by volunteering at races as often as I could. I can not wait to sweep another race.

“It wasn’t my place that mattered; it was setting a goal and demolishing it! It was staring down my demons … and overcoming them.

“In 2017, I became a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Then I studied and became a UESCA (United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy)-certified run coach, and, recently, beta tested its ultrarunning certification.

“My goal is to build up and encourage other runners who are not first or podium runners or athletes from their childhoods.

“I desire to share my love of running and strength training with women who need to find their self-esteem once again after raising children, caring for aging parents, or coming through life battles that leave us empty and worn out.

“I want to build up the middle and back of the pack, because running is so much more than a competition between athletes. It is a competition between your ears, between your mind and your body.

“Running is a way to let go of the pressures of the day and the stresses of life. It is a way to dig deep into your soul and examine who you are and where you want to be — a place to dream and create.

“Running is so much more than a competitive sport. It is a healing meditation and an art.

“In 2019, my daughter, Ingrid, and her husband, Michael, opened Core Strength Fitness LLC (CSF) in Kingston, where I am so happy to be given the opportunity to work with athletes to build up their strength and endurance. Through group fitness, metabolic conditioning, kickboxing, and personal training, I have been able to give others a chance to build up their muscles and their self-esteem.

“At CSF, I share my experience and knowledge with others, helping them set goals and smash them, whether it’s a 5K or a marathon, or to gain muscle, lose fat, and feel amazing.

“Running has given me the impetus and taught me the lessons needed to follow my dreams, set big hairy goals, and smash them!

“It has taught me lessons that setbacks are only learning experiences, and to come back from those lessons stronger and more able to accomplish whatever it is I set out to do!

“You can too!”

Women shoulder tremendous responsibilities in our society. In today’s economy, most women have to work, and the moment they get home, they start their second and third “jobs.” Women are the glue that holds our families and our households together and, in that sense, our society.

Women face enormous pressure, and at times they have to be all things to all people. For many women, running has become their “me time” and a way to release stress.

Shamrock Run

This year’s Kingston Shamrock Run has gone virtual and can be completed now through March 17. For all information and to join in on the fun, visit the website

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