Can Anyone Become a Marathon Runner?

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Although serious long-distance runners are only a small percentage of the population, scientific studies have shown that humans are born runners. But unlike cheetahs, pumas, and other quick four-footed mammals, we’re not designed for sudden propulsion and short bursts of speed. Rather, our evolutionary development placed a heavy emphasis on traversing long distances. That’s why people who really work at becoming long-distance runners are able to find that sweet spot where they feel comfortable and almost relaxed when running long distances. It’s built into our systems.

Built for long distances

So, theoretically, anyone can become a long distance runner and potentially compete in the Olympics. Unfortunately, one of the potentially damaging effects of modern transportation is that we no longer have the need to travel long distances on foot. Plus, it also doesn’t help that we no longer hunt our own food. Evolutionary biologists believe that our long-distance advantage developed to give us the ability to wear down prey by tracking them over long distances. Obviously, this skill has been all but lost.

But just because we get all our meat at the store doesn’t mean that there aren’t some real benefits to running, and that’s why many people do it. In addition to the obvious health benefits, running just feels good, and it’s also great for the mind. Once you get into that groove, it’s almost like a form of meditation.

Olympic prospects

Although we’re all designed to be runners, this doesn’t mean that we all have what it takes to become Olympic marathon runners. We do have what it takes to be marathoners in general, but the Olympics are designed for elite competitors, and in order to be an elite marathoner, you pretty much have to have a certain long, lanky, and efficient body type. The rest of us have to settle for the mere enjoyment of the sport.

Even so, in the coming years, we can expect to see the field become much more competitive. More people start running every year, and particularly in countries like the U.S. and Australia, it’s gained incredible popularity as an everyday activity to keep the waistline down and the heart ticking strongly. We all know about the Boston and New York Marathons, but an incredible number of similar events have sprung up in smaller towns throughout the U.S. and beyond. With all this extra publicity, plus the rise of smart, science-based training, the Olympic marathon event is likely to become even more exciting through the 21st century.

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