If you’ve read Born to run, you know that in the distant past, running was probably the most useful skill available to us (if you haven’t read it yet, read it now). Actually, it was essential for survival: on a daily basis, you needed to be able to run away to the nearest tree in case you were chased by a lion, and since you hadn’t invented weapons yet, the only hunting technique was to run after an antelope until it died of exhaustion. True story! The silly animals can run fast yet they can’t run for long since they have to stop to pant and cool down. But us clever bipeds, can go on for hours: running on two legs allows us to control our breathing and to desync it from our stride if needed, and we can also sweat, which is a stinky but efficient way to cool down our body.
Somewhere around the bronze age, we’ve invented the spear and the bazooka which made hunting much easier. We’ve invented dynamite for efficient and ethical fishing. And because we’re lazy but cunning bastards, we’ve even convinced our food to stay put in our fields and wait to be turned into tasty burgers. So nowadays, running seems pretty useless at first glance. But I want to argue that it is actually useful in the 21st century.
Let’s take bus hunting for example. That’s an activity Londoners often engage in after a night of boozing outside of zone 1. On a Friday not so long ago, I found myself precisely in that situation. Having duly honoured the production of a delightful micro-brewery in Walthamstow, I embarked on the journey home. Citymapper informed me that the next bus was arriving in 5 minutes and the following one in 45 minutes. If I didn’t want to freeze to death for 40 minutes, I had to catch the first one, even though the bus stop was 9 minutes away walking. So I jogged away at an easy pace, with a gentle mid-foot strike (heel striking would have been impossible with my dress shoes) and I arrived just in time to catch the bus, not even out of breath in the slightest. Come to think of it, I have to run a beer mile one day…
Avoiding to spend 40 minutes in the cold waiting for the bus should be a pretty good argument for the usefulness of the skill of running, but you don’t seem convinced. How about better sex? Ah ah, I knew I would get your attention with that one! I’m telling you, the ability to shag without being out of breath after 5 minutes is appreciable and appreciated. And I’m not the only one to say that runners are better in bed.
Now I can tell you’re convinced: running is a useful skill! And as a bonus, I believe that marathon-finishers deserve bragging rights for life. I’m working on it and by the end of next year, I should be able to bore you to death with all my bragging. In the meantime, any takers on my offer for a beer mile in my friendly company?