The Running Animal, Part 2

2252094080_73913ef22f.jpgUsain Bolt might be the “world’s fastest human” at nearly 30 mph – or is it Haile Gebrselassie, the world-record holder in the marathon, who can run 26.2 miles at about 12 mph? Cameron Stracher at the WSJ notes that Bolt, over short distances, is only the 30th fastest animal in the world (even housecats are faster!), but only Siberian Huskies and Arabian horses can beat Gebrselassie over long distances. (HT: Dave Parry via Twitter)

My addition: where did Huskies and Arabian horses come from? Human beings, who bred them specifically for long-distance running. The genetic accomplishments of our ancestors are consistently under-appreciated. Yesterday, a story on NPR noted that, during the 19th century, there were 7,000 named varieties of apples in the United States. Named. As in, someone, somewhere, had created or found the variety, named it, and passed it on to others. Today, there are only 300. I marvel at people from the long past who were able to breed a dog or horse to fit a specific need.

I’ve seen this long-distance running phenomenon up close and personal. We are the proud owners of a 5-month-old Borador. She is fast. But I’ve taken her running with me a few times, and she simply has no wind – after less than a mile, she starts dragging. It will be interesting to see if how much endurance she can build up. (She’s also recovering from a broken front paw and doesn’t quite have full strength back.)

I’ve mused on humans as running animals before. Maybe I’m more sensitive to this topic right now because I’m training for a half-marathon in October. Someone told me that I would be amazed at how quickly I can add miles to my runs, and it’s true. Though I’m in good shape (much better shape than I’ve been in years), I’ve never done any kind of distance running, and I’m pretty slow (11 to 15 minute miles). Last Saturday, I ran 6 miles and could have run 2 or 3 more. Praise God for how he has designed us.

Photo: That is NOT me. A model running with his huskies, from David of Earth via Flickr.