The Running Animal

To move things in a completely different direction, maybe human beings are the “running animal.”  We’re not used to thinking of human beings as physically superior to other animals – e.g. cheetahs are faster, elephants are stronger – but it turns out that human beings are the best long-distance runners in the world. So says Daniel Lieberman of Harvard and Dennis Bramble of Utah. In another article, Lieberman notes that:

Once humans start running, it only takes a bit more energy for us to run faster, Lieberman said. Other animals, on the other hand, expend a lot more energy as they speed up, particularly when they switch from a trot to a gallop, which most animals cannot maintain over long distances.

They also point out that human beings are the only animals in the world that run long distances – like a marathon – voluntarily.  Which reminds me of the scene from Back to the Future 3 in which some cowboys are laughing at Marty McFly’s “running shoes.”  

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