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When Was Running Invented? A Journey through Time

Table of Contents

Ever think you could outrun a cheetah? Believe it or not, humans are actually built for distance running! But how did this superpower come about? When was running even invented? Hold on tight, because we’re about to blast off on a time travel mission to uncover the surprising truth!

This isn’t a dull history lesson. We’re going to explore cave paintings for clues. We’ll also cheer for the first runners at the ancient Olympics. If you’re interested in how running evolved from a survival skill to a global sport, buckle up. It’s going to be an epic journey!

Key takeaways

  • Running as a Natural Ability: Explore how running, far from being an ‘invention,’ is a natural human ability stemming from our evolutionary history.
  • Early Human Survival: Discover the role of running in early human societies, primarily for hunting and communication.
  • Sporting Beginnings: Explore the history of running, a key part of sports, with origins in Ancient Greece. The Olympic Games began around 776 BC and featured running as a central event.
  • The First Races: Explore the history of the “stade.” This was the first recorded race. It consisted of a footrace over the length of a stadium. The stade set the foundation for modern racing as we know it.

When Was Running Invented?

Humans weren’t born with treadmills, but with the ability to run! Far from being an invention, running is a natural human skill, honed over millions of years for survival. Early humans relied on it for hunting, escaping threats, and communication. This essential ability evolved into a structured sport in ancient civilizations like Greece, where running events became a highlight of the Olympic Games (776 BC).

The Evolutionary Origins of Running

Running has ancient evolutionary roots, originating as a vital survival skill for our early ancestors. Before advanced tools, running long distances was essential for hunting and evading threats. This natural ability evolved over millions of years, transitioning from a survival necessity to a popular exercise and sport.

Running: A Natural Human Ability

The myth humorously says that ‘Thomas Running’ invented running in 1748, but that’s not true. Running began long before that. Far from being an invention, running is a natural human ability. It’s a natural step after learning to walk. It’s a legacy embedded in our DNA, stemming from our need for survival, be it in hunting or escaping danger. Running didn’t start overnight. It developed over millions of years. What once was a survival skill is now also a form of exercise and sport.

The Historical Context of Running

Running has a fascinating historical context that dates back to ancient civilizations, including the Ancient Egyptians. Running has evolved from a survival skill to a competitive sport.

Events like the stadion race in the stone tools era and chariot racing in 490 BC highlight the evolution of running as a sport. The Olympic marathon, 100-meter, and 400-meter sprints have become symbols of competitive sports since 1897 and 1908.

Cross-country running and athletes like Thomas Running show the lasting tradition of running for survival and fitness.

The Tailteann Games in Ireland and funeral games highlight the importance of running races in ancient times. These events helped to establish organized races and the running community we have today.

Early Human Societies: Running for Survival

Running played a crucial role in early human societies, primarily for hunting and communication. This necessity led to the development of running as a skill, long before it became a sport.

In this section, we look at how running began as a way to survive. We’ll track its evolution into a structured sport, beginning with its role in ancient societies.

Running in Ancient Civilizations

From the dawn of humanity, running has been integral to our existence. Ancient civilizations not only used running for survival but began to structure it as a sport. The ancient Olympic Games began in 776 BC and running was a major event, making it an important moment in the history of competitive running.

Running: From Survival to Sport and Beyond – Addressing the Myth of Running’s Invention

Contrary to the humorous myth, “Thomas Running” did not invent running in 1748. Running is a natural step in human progression, evolving from a survival skill to a form of exercise and sport.

Our ancestors ran to survive. Running became important in ancient Greek culture. It’s now a key feature of sports competitions worldwide. Running has always been a part of human history, from survival to the first Olympic Games.

Running has always been more than just a physical activity. In ancient Greek culture, it was a celebrated spectacle. The iconic stadion race and Pheidippides’ legendary Athenian dash illustrate how running transcended mere physicality.

The Captivating Chronology of Running

Cave painting depicting a group of early humans running. This image suggests that running has been a natural human activity for thousands of years, not a recent invention.
Time FrameNotable Milestones in the Legacy of Running
Dawn of HumanityRunning has developed as a fundamental survival ability, allowing humans to hunt and avoid threats.
Ancient Civilizations (~3000 BCE)The inception of running competitions in ancient societies such as Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia. The first Olympic Games recorded also incorporated running events.
Middle Ages (~500 CE – 1500 CE)During this period, running was primarily used as a skill for hunting and combat. Organized running competitions were not prevalent.
1700sThe culture of running as a competitive sport was rekindled in England. The upper class organized racing events and engaged in gambling over outcomes.
1896The modern Olympic Games brought back running events like sprints, middle distances, and marathons. These events show that running is an important Olympic sport.
1897More than 715 marathons took place across the US, proving that running remains a favored activity after so many years.
1908During the London Olympics, the royal family requested that the marathon distance be set to 26.2 miles so they could watch the race’s end from their home.
1924Humorously, in some memes, Thomas Running is acknowledged to have pioneered modern running around this time.
1936Jesse Owens, an African American athlete, won gold medals in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay in Berlin.
1947Humorously in some memes, Thomas Running is acknowledged to have pioneered modern running around this time.
1960The trend of jogging began to gain traction among enthusiasts.
1968More than 715 marathons took place across the US, proving that running remains a favored activity after many years.
1969The Boston Marathon is always held on the third Monday in April.
1972This year marked the final appearance of cross-country as a standalone event at the Olympics. Today, it is a component of the modern pentathlon.
1984The Los Angeles Olympics hosted the first official women’s marathon.
1986For the first time, cash prizes were bestowed upon winners of the Boston Marathon.
2019This year marked the final appearance of cross-country as a standalone event at the Olympics. Today, it is a component of the modern pentathlon.
TodayRunning remains one of the world’s most accessible and popular sports and forms of exercise. Key innovations include advanced shoe technology, running apps, and wearables.
Diagram of Notable Milestones in the Legacy of Running

Clear History of Running

Forget the idea of dusty old timelines and ignore the fictional tale of an inventor called “Thomas Running.” To truly grasp the origins of running, don’t search for a single starting point. Instead, consider the numerous incremental strides our ancestors took across millennia. Our two-legged forebears, who existed two million years ago, didn’t measure their sprints across the Savannah. They ran as a matter of life or death – to hunt their prey or to avoid predators. Running has been intertwined with our very survival long before we ever had language to describe it.

See also
Can You Reach Your Fitness Goals with Just 30 Minutes of Running Daily? (Spoiler: It Depends!)

Fast-forward to Ancient Greece, where running wasn’t just a primal instinct but a celebrated spectacle. In 776 BC, the Greeks formalized it as a sport, birthing the iconic stadion race. Later, Pheidippides’ legendary Athenian dash cemented the marathon into history, proving running’s ability to transcend mere physicality. But to say they “invented” it is like claiming someone invented lightning before Franklin.

So, when did running truly begin? The answer? Always. It’s a legacy of chasing, fleeing, and celebrating in our DNA. From Greek sprints to modern marathons, running evolves, adapts, and inspires. Lace-up your shoes and join the story. This isn’t about who invented running but the endless journey it sets us on – one stride at a time.

Running as a Competition

Races have been important in human history for centuries. People organized races since ancient times. Running was a popular sport among the Greeks and Romans. They had running at Greek funeral games and Roman chariot races. The Olympic Games, starting in 776 BC, featured running events. These events took place in the Olympic stadium. They have influenced today’s competitive running.

Boston Marathon

It is renowned as the world’s oldest annual marathon, with its inaugural race held in 1897. This event is famous and has been popular for many years. It is considered a prestigious and historic race for runners. The marathon’s rich history and challenging course continue to draw elite distance runners and recreational athletes alike.

Running Becomes a Sport

Running has become very popular over time. It started small and is now a sport known worldwide. In the 1970s, about 25 million Americans started running or jogging for health. This interest turned running into a competitive sport. Now, events like marathons, sprints, and ultramarathons draw people from all over the world.

The Evolution of Running Throughout History

Ancient Footprints: An ancient scene depicting the evolution of running millions of years ago, with early humans in a prehistoric landscape, emphasizing the natural conditions that shaped running.

Running was not invented in 1748, nor was it created by someone named Thomas Running. However, the structured competition of running does have known beginnings. Running events were part of the first recorded Olympic Games in 776 BC. This shows that running was an important sport in ancient times.

Addressing the Myth: Was Running Invented in 1748 by Thomas Running?

The story saying Thomas Running invented running in 1748 isn’t true. It’s a made-up tale suggesting that running was deliberately created by someone. While it’s a funny idea, it’s not correct. Humans have always run, ever since the beginning of time. The myth leads to questions like “When was running invented in 1748?” and “Who invented running in 1748?” Running is a basic human movement. This includes fast sprints and slow jogs. No one ‘invented’ running in any specific year, and no one person started it.

The Milestones in Running History

The running history is marked by significant milestones that have shaped its evolution as a sport. From the ancient Olympic Games to the modern marathons, running has undergone considerable transformation. The first recorded Olympic champion was Coroebus of Elis in 776 BCE, marking the beginning of competitive running. Marathons have their roots in Ancient Greece. They are inspired by the story of Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens. In the 19th century, running became popular again. The renewal of the Olympic Games increased its popularity worldwide.

Ancient Origins

Running has a long history dating back to when humans first found it useful. By the 7th century BCE, Greek messengers called “hemerodromoi” used their strong running skills. They would quickly deliver messages over long distances. Their practice demonstrated the need for good physical fitness and stamina to communicate effectively.

Running is a sport that dates back thousands of years

Early humans had to run long distances to stay alive. They needed to be quick and have the endurance to escape predators or chase down prey. This drove them to create ways to boost their running ability.

When was running invented?

Running is a very old sport that dates back thousands of years. It’s a natural talent that both animals and humans possess. The first recorded race took place over 2,000 years ago during the Olympics.

See also
Running Uphill: The Best Way to Improve Your Mileage as a Runner

The Emergence of Running as a Sport and Recreational Activity

You want to know how running began. Running has existed for thousands of years. It became a competitive sport during the Ancient Olympic Games. It only gained popularity in America in the 20th century. The jogging craze of the 1970s boosted its popularity. Today, many people run for health and fitness. It’s unclear who “invented” jogging because running has been a part of human history for so long. The 1970s running boom had a big impact on the modern practice of jogging for health and fitness.

The Modern Era of Running

Revival and Popularization in the 19th Century

The culture of running as a competitive sport was rekindled in England during the 1700s. This period saw the emergence of organized racing events and the beginning of running as a recreational activity.

Running Today: A Global Phenomenon

Olympic Glory: A vivid depiction of the first Olympic Games in 776 BCE, focusing on running events in ancient Greece, with athletes competing in a traditional Greek stadium.

The Continuing Evolution of Running

Running has a captivating history with many significant events. It began with the first known race in Ancient Greece. Over time, it grew with human society. Training techniques improved. Shoe technology got better. We learned more about the human body. Today, running is a worldwide sport. Its popularity and importance have stood the test of time.

The Birth of Marathons

The marathon is a well-known long-distance run that started in Ancient Greece. According to legend, in 490 BCE, a soldier named Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens. He did this to deliver news of a Greek victory against the Persians. This incredible long run is what inspired the marathon races we have today.

Modernization and Popularization

In the 19th century, more people started running for fun and exercise. They enjoyed the health benefits. Running events also became popular. With these events, running turned into a competitive sport. It now had its own set of rules and regulations.

Thomas Running – A Pioneer’s Story

Thomas Running is notable for promoting running as a popular recreational activity during this era. Born in England in 1820, Thomas recognized the health benefits of jogging and started advocating for its practice. His efforts contributed to the establishment of jogging clubs and the normalization of running as a social activity.

The Olympic Games and Running

Historical black and white photo of a large gathering during the early Olympic Games, showcasing the popularity and significance of running events in human history.
Image by Britannica. Source: Britannica

In the 20th century, the Olympic Games were brought back to life, and running became popular again. Spyridon Louis, from Greece, won the very first modern Olympic marathon in 1896. His victory excited people all over the world. Now, marathons and track running events are key parts of the Olympic Games.

The Rise of Endurance Events

A craze for marathons began in the early 20th century. People increasingly enjoyed taking on long-distance running. The Boston Marathon started this trend in the United States in 1897. It was the first race of official marathon length. This event led the way for other endurance races globally. Ultramarathons, hill races, and cross-country running became popular. Both professional runners and casual athletes took part in these events.

From Olympics to Everyday: Running waxed and waned in popularity through the Middle Ages and Modern Era. The text was used in military training. Later, it became popular among English aristocrats. Eventually, it gained widespread popularity in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The Olympics were revived, and marathons began, including Boston’s famous race. Additionally, recreational jogging became very popular. All of these factors made running a global phenomenon.

Evolution of a Sport: Modern running boasts various disciplines – sprints testing raw speed, marathons celebrating endurance, and trail running embracing nature’s challenges. Technological advancements in shoes, apparel, and tracking devices empower athletes of all levels. Running clubs connect communities, and inspirational figures like Jesse Owens and countless everyday heroes redefine what’s possible.

Evolutionary Perspective

Early humans developed the ability to run long distances through a remarkable adaptation known as persistence hunting. Our ancestors were different from predators because they could jog for a long time at a steady pace, tiring out their prey. This skill became a cornerstone of survival, providing access to meat and shaping our physiology for endurance.

Running: From Transportation to Recreation

Running is more than just a traditional means of transportation and a sport. It’s a favorite leisure activity that brings joy to millions of people worldwide. People run for various reasons, including improving fitness levels, achieving personal goals, relieving stress, and connecting with nature.

Notable Figures in Running History

Throughout history, several individuals have left their mark on the world of running:

  1. Queen Alexandra: An avid runner, Queen Alexandra’s love for running inspired many women to take up the activity during her reign.
  2. Jimmy Carter: The 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, was known for his dedication to physical fitness and running. His commitment to health and wellness set an example for many.
  3. Steve Prefontaine: An American runner, Steve Prefontaine, was a dominant force in distance running during the 1970s. He broke numerous records and inspired a generation of runners.

Running as a Form of Exercise

Running is not only an enjoyable activity but also an efficient form of exercise. It engages various muscle groups, improves cardiovascular endurance, and helps burn calories. Incorporating running into a regular exercise routine can contribute to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Evolution in Competitive Running

Competitive running has evolved with advancements in training techniques and equipment. Athletes now benefit from a modern scientific understanding of human physiology to maximize their performance potential. This evolution has resulted in faster times being achieved across various race formats.

Competitive Running Events Around the World

Running events take place globally throughout the year, catering to different skill levels and interests:

  • Boston Marathon: The oldest annual marathon in the world, attracting elite and recreational runners from around the globe.
  • London Marathon: One of the most prestigious marathons, attracting thousands of participants and millions of spectators.
  • Comrades Marathon: An ultramarathon race held annually in South Africa, challenging runners with its hilly terrain and long-distance format.
See also
Conquer the Hills: Techniques and Benefits of Hill Training for Runners

Table: World Record Marathon Times (Men)

2023Kelvin KiptumKenya2:00:35Chicago
2018Eliud KipchogeKenya2:01:39Berlin
2019Kenenisa BekeleEthiopia2:01:41Berlin
2022Birhanu LegeseEthiopia2:02:48Berlin
2014Dennis KimettoKenya2:02:57Berlin
2019Eliud KipchogeKenya2:03:05London
2008Haile GebrselassieEthiopia2:03:59Berlin
2020Eliud KipchogeKenya2:04:30*London

(*Note: The table provides a snapshot of some notable world record marathon times and should not be considered exhaustive.)

A dynamic illustration showcasing a progression of runners, each labeled with a year and time, visually representing the improvement in running speeds over the years.

The first modern Olympic event was held in Athens in 1896. It was a four-day competition. 

The inaugural Olympic Games of the modern era, established by Pierre de Coubertin in 1894, commenced with the Opening Ceremony on April 6, 1896. The ceremony was held at the Panathenaic Stadium in the Greek capital and witnessed by a crowd of 80,000 spectators.
Image by – Source:

It was created by the Greeks to highlight the splendor of antiquity. The current marathon resulted from Michel Breal, a French Philologist insistent regarding his inclusion in the Olympics. The race was exclusively for males at the time.

The first person to win the inaugural marathon was a Greek water carrier called Spyridon Louis. Louis ran the marathon in 2 hours, 58 minutes, and 50 seconds at 24. After the Olympic Games, he returned to his village and did not participate in any other race. He lived calmly, working as a farmer and later as a local policeman.

1897Birth of the revered Boston Marathon, fired up by the modern Olympics.
1898New York catches “marathon mania,” hosting five major races.
1972Joan Benoit shines at the Olympics – the first official women’s marathon. She builds on the legacy of pioneers such as Stamata Revithi, Marie-Louise Ledru, and Violet Piercy.
2019Running fever holds strong, with 715 marathons across the U.S.!
A woman finishing a marathon race

The Evolutionary Importance of Running

People often ask when running was invented, which starts a detailed discussion. Running wasn’t made up by someone like Thomas Running in 1748, as some stories suggest. It comes from our evolutionary past. Humans have run long distances for thousands of years, mainly to hunt or avoid dangerous animals. Over time, running’s purpose changed. It started to play a role in spiritual practices, government, and sports.

Running as a Symbol and Sport

Running has held symbolic and ritualistic importance in many cultures. The Tailteann Games, which started in 1829 B.C. in Ireland, featured running as a key sport. These games reportedly shaped the Olympic Games, making running a globally recognized sport. In various societies, running symbolized traits such as endurance, strength, and dedication. It was even used to assess a leader’s ability in some civilizations. For example, in ancient Egypt, Pharaohs who could not finish a race were considered incapable of ruling.

Technological Advancements and Modern Running

Tech Revolution: A contemporary image showcasing the integration of technology in running, with runners using modern gadgets in an urban setting, highlighting the data-driven and connected nature of modern running.

The sport of running has not only evolved in form but also in the technology that supports it. Modern advancements have significantly impacted how we run, from advanced shoe technology to wearable fitness trackers. These technologies have not only made running more accessible but have also contributed to performance optimization. Training methods have changed because we now understand human physiology better. Athletes are breaking new records. They are pushing past what we once thought were the limits of our physical capabilities.

Running’s Impact on Health and Well-being

Running is not just a physical activity; it’s a holistic approach to well-being. It offers numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, muscle strengthening, and mental wellness. Running regularly can lower the risk of many diseases. Experts recommend it as a good exercise for everyone. It helps both professional athletes and those wanting to get fit. Running is a flexible and powerful way to reach your health goals.

The Global Popularity of Running Events

Running has a universal appeal, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries. Events like the Boston, London, and Comrades Marathon in South Africa testify to its global popularity. These events attract diverse participants, from elite athletes to recreational runners, making running a truly inclusive sport. Running events create a sense of community and camaraderie, adding a social aspect to the sport. It becomes more than just a physical activity.

The Cultural Significance of Running

Pheidippides Nearing Athens: The final image depicts Pheidippides nearing the end of his journey, with the city of Athens and landmarks like the Acropolis visible in the background.

Running has always been important, even as civilizations progressed. It was featured in the first Olympic Games. It was also honored in the first marathon, which celebrated Pheidippides, a soldier’s long run. So, asking ‘When was running invented?’ is not just about a date. It’s about how running evolved as an essential part of human culture.

When Was Modern Competitive Running Established?

Competitive running became formalized in the 19th century. During this time, people jokingly said that running was ‘invented.’ Rules for running were standardized. Running clubs were established. These developments led to the organized sport of running as we know it today.

The Spread of Running as a Global Sport

Running became popular in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This happened as track and field events were included in college sports programs. As a result, running grew into a widely enjoyed competitive and leisure activity across the country.

Running’s Role in Modern Fitness

Today, running is valued not only as a sport but also for its health benefits. People started jogging for health and fitness in the 1970s, leading to the running boom. That’s when jogging became widely popular.

The Modernization of Running

Jogging for All: A vibrant depiction of the jogging craze of the 1960s, showing diverse people jogging in colorful athletic wear, reflecting the democratization of running.

Running is not just a sport. It is about health, fitness, competition, self-expression, and bringing people together. In today’s technology-driven world, it helps us connect to our physicality and the environment. You don’t need to break records. A casual jog can also bring you joy. Enjoy moving forward, one step at a time. Each run lets us leave our mark on the world.

So, when did running begin? It didn’t start all at once. Instead, its history is intertwined with human evolution and culture. Running has evolved from a necessity for survival to a source of Olympic pride. It is as much at home in busy cities as it is on tranquil nature paths. Running continues to enchant us. It encourages us to challenge our limits. It lets us enjoy the excitement of taking one step after another.


When was running invented as a sport?

The origins of running as a sport are unclear. However, it has been a practice since ancient times.

When was running invented?

Running has been a natural human activity since prehistoric times.

When was running invented 1747?

There is no specific information about running being invented in 1747.

When was running first invented?

Running has been part of human history for thousands of years, making it difficult to pinpoint an exact date.

When was the running invented?

Running has been a fundamental human activity since ancient times.

How was running invented?

Running evolved as a natural human ability for hunting and escaping predators, becoming essential for survival in ancient times.

Conclusion: Running – An Enduring Legacy

Embracing the Continuous Journey of Running

In answering ‘When was running invented?‘ we discover that running is not linked to a single moment in history, but rather it is a continuous journey. Running showcases our ability to endure and adapt. From a survival tactic to a source of Olympic pride, running is a testament to human resilience and capability. We lace up our shoes to run on tracks, trails, or treadmills. In doing so, we tap into a timeless aspect of humanity.

A friend might push you to run an extra mile. Or a coach might ask for one more sprint. It’s not just about exercise. You’re continuing a human practice. Our ancestors ran to survive and to impress others. We do the same things today.

So now, lace up your trainers, stand tall, and hit the pavement. Remember next time you’re gasping for air on that uphill – running wasn’t created in a day. It’s in our blood, it’s in our genes, and it’s certainly etched into history.

And hey, when someone next asks you, “When was running invented?” give them a wink and say, “Before it was cool.” Now, run along and share this fun fact with your fellow runners!


Harvard University researchers led by Daniel E. Lieberman have conducted studies on the connection between endurance running and evolution. These studies shed light on the reasons why our ancestors may have developed the ability to run long distances. Source: Harvard University’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology

Running (disambiguation) – Wikipedia

History of the IOC (