Running is a method of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and
other animals to move rapidly on foot.
Running is a type of gait
characterized by an aerial phase in which all feet are above the
ground (though there are exceptions). This is in contrast to
walking, where one foot is always in contact with the ground, the legs
are kept mostly straight and the center of gravity vaults over the
stance leg or legs in an inverted pendulum fashion. A
characteristic feature of a running body from the viewpoint of
spring-mass mechanics is that changes in kinetic and potential energy
within a stride occur simultaneously, with energy storage accomplished
by springy tendons and passive muscle elasticity. The term running
can refer to any of a variety of speeds ranging from jogging to
It is assumed that the ancestors of humankind developed the ability to
run for long distances about 2.6 million years ago, probably in order
to hunt animals. Competitive running grew out of religious
festivals in various areas. Records of competitive racing date back to
the Tailteann Games in Ireland in 1829 BCE, while
the first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776 BCE.
been described as the world's most accessible sport.
Running kinematic description
2.3 Propulsion phase
2.4 Swing phase
2.5 Upper extremity function
2.6 Footstrike debate
2.7 Stride length, hip and knee function
3 Elements of good running technique
3.1 Upright posture and a slight forward lean
3.2 Stride rate and types
4 Benefits of running
4.1 Cardiovascular benefits
Weight loss benefits
4.3 Mental Health
5.1 High impact
6.1 Limits of speed
Running speed over increasing distance based on world record times
6.3 Events by type
6.4 Events by distance
6.4.2 Middle distance
6.4.3 Long distance
7 See also
9 External links
A scene depicting long distance runners, originally found on a
Panathenaic amphora from Ancient Greece, circa 333 BCE
It is thought that human running evolved at least four and a half
million years ago out of the ability of the ape-like Australopithecus,
an early ancestor of humans, to walk upright on two legs.
The theory proposed considered to be the most likely evolution of
running is of early humans' developing as endurance runners from the
practice of persistence hunting of animals, the activity of following
and chasing until a prey is too exhausted to flee, succumbing to
"chase myopathy" (Sears 2001), and that human features such as the
nuchal ligament, abundant sweat glands, the Achilles tendons, big knee
joints and muscular glutei maximi, were changes caused by this type of
activity (Bramble & Lieberman 2004, et al.). The theory
as first proposed used comparative physiological evidence and the
natural habits of animals when running, indicating the likelihood of
this activity as a successful hunting method. Further evidence from
observation of modern-day hunting practice also indicated this
likelihood (Carrier et al. 1984).  According to Sears
(p. 12) scientific investigation (Walker & Leakey 1993) of
the Nariokotome Skeleton provided further evidence for the Carrier
Competitive running grew out of religious festivals in various areas
such as Greece, Egypt, Asia, and the
East African Rift
East African Rift in Africa. The
Tailteann Games, an Irish sporting festival in honor of the goddess
Tailtiu, dates back to 1829 BCE, and is one of the earliest records of
competitive running. The origins of the Olympics
Marathon running are shrouded by myth and legend, though the first
recorded games took place in 776 BCE.
Running in Ancient Greece
can be traced back to these games of 776 BCE.
...I suspect that the sun, moon, earth, stars, and heaven, which are
still the gods of many barbarians, were the only gods known to the
aboriginal Hellenes. Seeing that they were always moving and running,
from their running nature they were called gods or runners (Thus,
Socrates in Plato – Cratylus 
Running kinematic description
Eadweard Muybridge photo sequence
Running gait can be divided into two phases in regard to the lower
extremity: stance and swing. These can be further
divided into absorption, propulsion, initial swing and terminal swing.
Due to the continuous nature of running gait, no certain point is
assumed to be the beginning. However, for simplicity it will be
assumed that absorption and footstrike mark the beginning of the
running cycle in a body already in motion.
Footstrike occurs when a plantar portion of the foot makes initial
contact with the ground. Common footstrike types include forefoot,
midfoot and heel strike types. These are characterized by
initial contact of the ball of the foot, ball and heel of the foot
simultaneously and heel of the foot respectively. During this time the
hip joint is undergoing extension from being in maximal flexion from
the previous swing phase. For proper force absorption, the knee joint
should be flexed upon footstrike and the ankle should be slightly in
front of the body. Footstrike begins the absorption phase as
forces from initial contact are attenuated throughout the lower
extremity. Absorption of forces continues as the body moves from
footstrike to midstance due to vertical propulsion from the toe-off
during a previous gait cycle.
Midstance is defined as the time at which the lower extremity limb of
focus is in knee flexion directly underneath the trunk, pelvis and
hips. It is at this point that propulsion begins to occur as the hips
undergo hip extension, the knee joint undergoes extension and the
ankle undergoes plantar flexion. Propulsion continues until the leg is
extended behind the body and toe off occurs. This involves maximal hip
extension, knee extension and plantar flexion for the subject,
resulting in the body being pushed forward from this motion and the
ankle/foot leaves the ground as initial swing begins.
Most recent research, particularly regarding the footstrike debate,
has focused solely on the absorption phases for injury identification
and prevention purposes. The propulsion phase of running involves the
movement beginning at midstance until toe off. From a full
stride length model however, components of the terminal swing and
footstrike can aid in propulsion. Set up for propulsion begins
at the end of terminal swing as the hip joint flexes, creating the
maximal range of motion for the hip extensors to accelerate through
and produce force. As the hip extensors change from reciporatory
inhibitors to primary muscle movers, the lower extremity is brought
back toward the ground, although aided greatly by the stretch reflex
and gravity. Footstrike and absorption phases occur next with two
types of outcomes. This phase can be only a continuation of momentum
from the stretch reflex reaction to hip flexion, gravity and light hip
extension with a heel strike, which does little to provide force
absorption through the ankle joint. With a mid/forefoot
strike, loading of the gastro-soleus complex from shock absorption
will serve to aid in plantar flexion from midstance to
toe-off. As the lower extremity enters midstance, true
propulsion begins. The hip extensors continue contracting along
with help from the acceleration of gravity and the stretch reflex left
over from maximal hip flexion during the terminal swing phase. Hip
extension pulls the ground underneath the body, thereby pulling the
runner forward. During midstance, the knee should be in some degree of
knee flexion due to elastic loading from the absorption and footstrike
phases to preserve forward momentum. The ankle joint is in
dorsiflexion at this point underneath the body, either elastically
loaded from a mid/forefoot strike or preparing for stand-alone
concentric plantar flexion. All three joints perform the final
propulsive movements during toe-off. The plantar
flexors plantar flex, pushing off from the ground and returning from
dorsiflexion in midstance. This can either occur by releasing the
elastic load from an earlier mid/forefoot strike or concentrically
contracting from a heel strike. With a forefoot strike, both the ankle
and knee joints will release their stored elastic energy from the
footstrike/absorption phase. The quadriceps group/knee
extensors go into full knee extension, pushing the body off of the
ground. At the same time, the knee flexors and stretch reflex pull the
knee back into flexion, adding to a pulling motion on the ground and
beginning the initial swing phase. The hip extensors extend to
maximum, adding the forces pulling and pushing off of the ground. The
movement and momentum generated by the hip extensors also contributes
to knee flexion and the beginning of the initial swing phase.
Initial swing is the response of both stretch reflexes and concentric
movements to the propulsion movements of the body. Hip flexion and
knee flexion occur beginning the return of the limb to the starting
position and setting up for another footstrike. Initial swing ends at
midswing, when the limb is again directly underneath the trunk, pelvis
and hip with the knee joint flexed and hip flexion continuing.
Terminal swing then begins as hip flexion continues to the point of
activation of the stretch reflex of the hip extensors. The knee begins
to extend slightly as it swings to the anterior portion of the body.
The foot then makes contact with the ground with footstrike,
completing the running cycle of one side of the lower extremity. Each
limb of the lower extremity works opposite to the other. When one side
is in toe-off/propulsion, the other hand is in the swing/recovery
phase preparing for footstrike. Following toe-off and
the beginning of the initial swing of one side, there is a flight
phase where neither extremity is in contact with the ground due to the
opposite side finishing terminal swing. As the footstrike of the one
hand occurs, initial swing continues. The opposing limbs meet with one
in midstance and midswing, beginning the propulsion and terminal swing
Upper extremity function
Upper extremity function serves mainly in providing balance in
conjunction with the opposing side of the lower extremity. The
movement of each leg is paired with the opposite arm which serves to
counterbalance the body, particularly during the stance phase. The
arms move most effectively (as seen in elite athletes) with the elbow
joint at an approximately 90 degrees or less, the hands swinging from
the hips up to mid chest level with the opposite leg, the Humerus
moving from being parallel with the trunk to approximately 45 degrees
shoulder extension (never passing the trunk in flexion) and with as
little movement in the transverse plane as possible. The trunk
also rotates in conjunction with arm swing. It mainly serves as a
balance point from which the limbs are anchored. Thus trunk motion
should remain mostly stable with little motion except for slight
rotation as excessive movement would contribute to transverse motion
and wasted energy.
Recent research into various forms of running has focused on the
differences, in the potential injury risks and shock absorption
capabilities between heel and mid/forefoot footstrikes. It has been
shown that heel striking is generally associated with higher rates of
injury and impact due to inefficient shock absorption and inefficient
biomechanical compensations for these forces. This is due to
forces from a heel strike traveling through bones for shock absorption
rather than being absorbed by muscles. Since bones cannot disperse
forces easily, the forces transmitted to other parts of the body,
including ligaments, joints and bones in the rest of the lower
extremity all the way up to the lower back. This causes the body
to use abnormal compensatory motions in an attempt to avoid serious
bone injuries. These compensations include internal rotation of
the tibia, knee and hip joints. Excessive amounts of compensation over
time have been linked to higher risk of injuries in those joints as
well as the muscles involved in those motions. Conversely, a
mid/forefoot strike has been associated with greater efficiency and
lower injury risk due to the triceps surae being used as a lever
system to absorb forces with the muscles eccentrically rather than
through the bone. Landing with a mid/forefoot strike has also been
shown to not only properly attenuate shock but allows the triceps
surae to aid in propulsion via reflexive plantarflexion after
stretching to absorb ground contact forces. Thus a
mid/forefoot strike may aid in propulsion. However, even among elite
athletes there are variations in self selected footstrike types.
This is especially true in longer distance events, where there is a
prevalence of heel strikers. There does tend however to be a
greater percentage of mid/forefoot striking runners in the elite
fields, particularly in the faster racers and the winning individuals
or groups. While one could attribute the faster speeds of elite
runners compared to recreational runners with similar footstrikes to
physiological differences, the hip and joints have been left out of
the equation for proper propulsion. This brings up the question as to
how heel striking elite distance runners are able to keep up such high
paces with a supposedly inefficient and injurious foot strike
Stride length, hip and knee function
Biomechanical factors associated with elite runners include increased
hip function, use and stride length over recreational runners.
An increase in running speeds causes increased ground reaction forces
and elite distance runners must compensate for this to maintain their
pace over long distances. These forces are attenuated through
increased stride length via increased hip flexion and extension
through decreased ground contact time and more force being used in
propulsion. With increased propulsion in the horizontal
plane, less impact occurs from decreased force in the vertical
plane. Increased hip flexion allows for increased use of the hip
extensors through midstance and toe-off, allowing for more force
production. The difference even between world class and national
level distance runners has been associated with more efficient hip
joint function. The increase in velocity likely comes from the
increased range of motion in hip flexion and extension, allowing for
greater acceleration and velocity. The hip extensors and hip extension
have been linked to more powerful knee extension during toe-off, which
contributes to propulsion. Stride length must be properly
increased with some degree of knee flexion maintained through the
terminal swing phases, as excessive knee extension during this phase
along with footstrike has been associated with higher impact forces
due to braking and an increased prevalence of heel striking. Elite
runners tend to exhibit some degree of knee flexion at footstrike and
midstance, which first serves to eccentrically absorb impact forces in
the quadriceps muscle group. Secondly it allows for the
knee joint to concentrically contract and provides major aid in
propulsion during toe-off as the quadriceps group is capable of
produce large amounts of force. Recreational runners have been
shown to increase stride length through increased knee extension
rather than increased hip flexion as exhibited by elite runners, which
serves instead to provide an intense braking motion with each step and
decrease the rate and efficiency of knee extension during toe-off,
slowing down speed. Knee extension however contributes to
additional stride length and propulsion during toe-off and is seen
more frequently in elite runners as well.
Elements of good running technique
Upright posture and a slight forward lean
Leaning forward places a runner's center of mass on the front part of
the foot, which avoids landing on the heel and facilitates the use of
the spring mechanism of the foot. It also makes it easier for the
runner to avoid landing the foot in front of the center of mass and
the resultant braking effect. While upright posture is essential, a
runner should maintain a relaxed frame and use his/her core to keep
posture upright and stable. This helps prevent injury as long as the
body is neither rigid nor tense. The most common running mistakes are
tilting the chin up and scrunching shoulders.
Stride rate and types
Exercise physiologists have found that the stride rates are extremely
consistent across professional runners, between 185 and 200 steps per
minute. The main difference between long- and short-distance runners
is the length of stride rather than the rate of stride.
During running, the speed at which the runner moves may be calculated
by multiplying the cadence (steps per second) by the stride length.
Running is often measured in terms of pace in minutes per mile or
kilometer. Fast stride rates coincide with the rate one pumps one's
arms. The faster one's arms move up and down, parallel with the body,
the faster the rate of stride. Different types of stride are necessary
for different types of running. When sprinting, runners stay on their
toes bringing their legs up, using shorter and faster strides. Long
distance runners tend to have more relaxed strides that vary.
Benefits of running
Further information: Neurobiological effects of physical exercise
U.S. Army soldier running to maintain his health
A woman running in a speedsuit
While there exists the potential for injury while running (just as
there is in any sport), there are many benefits. Some of these
benefits include potential weight loss, improved cardiovascular and
respiratory health (reducing the risk of cardiovascular and
respiratory diseases), improved cardiovascular fitness, reduced total
blood cholesterol, strengthening of bones (and potentially increased
bone density), possible strengthening of the immune system and an
improved self-esteem and emotional state. Running, like all forms
of regular exercise, can effectively slow or reverse the
effects of aging.
Although an optimal amount of vigorous aerobic exercise such as
running might bring benefits related to lower cardiovascular disease
and life extension, an excessive dose (e.g., marathons) might have an
opposite effect associated with cardiotoxicity.
Weight loss benefits
Running can assist people in losing weight, staying in shape and
improving body composition. Research suggests that for the person of
average weight, they will burn approximately 100 calories per mile
Running increases your metabolism even after you have
finished running. You will continue to burn an increased level of
calories for a short time after the run. Different speeds and
distances are appropriate for different individual health and fitness
levels. For new runners, it takes time to get into shape. The key is
consistency and a slow increase in speed and distance. While
running, it is best to pay attention to how one's body feels. If a
runner is gasping for breath or feels exhausted while running, it may
be beneficial to slow down or try a shorter distance for a few weeks.
If a runner feels that the pace or distance is no longer challenging,
then the runner may want to speed up or run farther.
Running can also have psychological benefits, as many participants in
the sport report feeling an elated, euphoric state, often referred to
as a "runner's high".
Running is frequently recommended as therapy
for people with clinical depression and people coping with
addiction. A possible benefit may be the enjoyment of nature and
scenery, which also improves psychological well-being (see
Ecopsychology § Practical benefits).
In animal models, running has been shown to increase the number of
newly created neurons within the brain. This finding could have
significant implications in aging as well as learning and memory. A
recent study published in Cell
Metabolism has also linked running with
improved memory and learning skills.
Further information: Running-related injuries
Many injuries are associated with running because of its high-impact
nature. Change in running volume may lead to development of
patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, patellar
tendinopathy, plica syndrome, and medial tibial stress syndrome.
Change in running pace may cause Achilles Tendinitis, gastrocnemius
injuries, and plantar fasciitis. Repetitive stress on the same
tissues without enough time for recovery or running with improper form
can lead to many of the above. Runners generally attempt to minimize
these injuries by warming up before exercise, focusing on proper
running form, performing strength training exercises, eating a well
balanced diet, allowing time for recovery, and "icing" (applying ice
to sore muscles or taking an ice bath).
Some runners may experience injuries when running on concrete
surfaces. The problem with running on concrete is that the body
adjusts to this flat surface running, and some of the muscles will
become weaker, along with the added impact of running on a harder
surface. Therefore, it is advised[by whom?] to change terrain
occasionally – such as trail, beach, or grass running. This is more
unstable ground and allows the legs to strengthen different muscles.
Runners should be wary of twisting their ankles on such terrain.
Running downhill also increases knee stress and should, therefore, be
avoided. Reducing the frequency and duration can also prevent injury.
Barefoot running has been promoted as a means of reducing running
related injuries, but this remains controversial and a majority of
professionals advocate the wearing of appropriate shoes as the best
method for avoiding injury. However, a study in 2013 concluded
that wearing neutral shoes is not associated with increased
Chafing of skin following a marathon run
Another common, running-related injury is chafing, caused by
repetitive rubbing of one piece of skin against another, or against an
article of clothing. One common location for chafe to occur is the
runner's upper thighs. The skin feels coarse and develops a rash-like
look. A variety of deodorants and special anti-chafing creams are
available to treat such problems. Chafe is also likely to occur on the
nipple. There are a variety of home remedies that runners use to deal
with chafing while running such as band-aids and using grease to
reduce friction. Prevention is key which is why form fitting clothes
Running is both a competition and a type of training for sports that
have running or endurance components. As a sport, it is split into
events divided by distance and sometimes includes permutations such as
the obstacles in steeplechase and hurdles.
Running races are contests
to determine which of the competitors is able to run a certain
distance in the shortest time. Today, competitive running events make
up the core of the sport of athletics. Events are usually grouped into
several classes, each requiring substantially different athletic
strengths and involving different tactics, training methods, and types
Running competitions have probably existed for most of humanity's
history and were a key part of the ancient Olympic Games as well as
the modern Olympics. The activity of running went through a period of
widespread popularity in the United States during the running boom of
the 1970s. Over the next two decades, as many as 25 million Americans
were doing some form of running or jogging – accounting for roughly
one tenth of the population. Today, road racing is a popular sport
among non-professional athletes, who included over 7.7 million
people in America alone in 2002.
Limits of speed
Footspeed, or sprint speed, is the maximum speed at which a human can
run. It is affected by many factors, varies greatly throughout the
population, and is important in athletics and many sports.
The fastest human footspeed on record is 44.7 km/h
(12.4 m/s, 27.8 mph), seen during a 100-meter sprint
(average speed between the 60th and the 80th meter) by Usain Bolt.
Running speed over increasing distance based on world record times
(see Category:Athletics (track and field) record progressions)
Maximum human speed [km/h] and pace [min/km] per distance
21,097 Half marathon
21,285 One hour run
303,506 24-hour run
Events by type
Main article: Track running
A man running with a baton during a relay race.
Track running events are individual or relay events with athletes
racing over specified distances on an oval running track. The events
are categorised as sprints, middle and long-distance, and hurdling.
Main article: Road running
Road running takes place on a measured course over an established road
(as opposed to track and cross country running). These events normally
range from distances of 5 kilometers to longer distances such as half
marathons and marathons, and they may involve scores of runners or
Main articles: Cross country running, Fell running, and Trail running
Cross country running
Cross country running takes place over the open or rough terrain. The
courses used for these events may include grass, mud, woodlands,
hills, flat ground and water. It is a popular participatory sport and
is one of the events which, along with track and field, road running,
and racewalking, makes up the umbrella sport of athletics.
Main articles: Fell running, Mountain running, and Skyrunning
Events by distance
Main article: Sprint (running)
International level women athletes competing in 100 m sprint race at
ISTAF Berlin, 2006
Sprints are short running events in athletics and track and field.
Races over short distances are among the oldest running competitions.
The first 13 editions of the
Ancient Olympic Games
Ancient Olympic Games featured only one
event – the stadion race, which was a race from one end of the
stadium to the other. There are three sprinting events which are
currently held at the Olympics and outdoor World Championships: the
100 metres, 200 metres, and 400 metres. These events have their roots
in races of imperial measurements which were later altered to metric:
the 100 m evolved from the 100-yard dash, the 200 m
distances came from the furlong (or 1/8 of a mile), and the
400 m was the successor to the
440 yard dash or quarter-mile
At the professional level, sprinters begin the race by assuming a
crouching position in the starting blocks before leaning forward and
gradually moving into an upright position as the contest progresses
and momentum is gained. Athletes remain in the same lane on the
running track throughout all sprinting events, with the sole
exception of the 400 m indoors. Races up to 100 m are
largely focused upon acceleration to an athlete's maximum speed.
All sprints beyond this distance increasingly incorporate an element
Human physiology dictates that a runner's near-top
speed cannot be maintained for more than thirty seconds or so as
lactic acid builds up, and leg muscles begin to be deprived of
60 metres is a common indoor event and it an indoor world
championship event. Other less-common events include the 50 metres, 55
300 metres and
500 metres which are used in some high and
collegiate competitions in the United States. The 150 metres, is
Pietro Mennea set a world best in 1983, Olympic
champions Michael Johnson and
Donovan Bailey went head-to-head over
the distance in 1997, and
Usain Bolt improved Mennea's record in
Main article: Middle-distance running
Middle distance running events are track races longer than sprints up
to 3000 metres. The standard middle distances are the 800 metres, 1500
metres and mile run, although the
3000 metres may also be classified
as a middle distance event. The 880 yard run, or half mile, was
the forebear to the 800 m distance and it has its roots in
competitions in the United Kingdom in the 1830s. The 1500 m
came about as a result of running three laps of a 500 m track,
which was commonplace in continental Europe in the 1900s.
Main article: Long-distance running
Examples of longer-distance running events are long distance track
races, marathons, ultramarathons, and multiday races.
Level and incline running
Outline of running
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Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Running". Encyclopædia Britannica
(11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Sprint (up to 400 m)
Middle-distance running (up to 3000 m)
Long-distance running (over 5000 m up to marathon)
Ultra running (over marathon)
Cross country running
IAU (ultra running)
ITRA (trail running)
WMRA (mountain running)
WSSF (snowshoe running)
IAAF World Championships in Athletics (athletics)
IAAF World Cross Country Championships (cross country)
IAU 100 km World Championships (ultra running)
Trail World Championships (trail running)
World Mountain Running Championships
World Mountain Running Championships (mountain running)
Skyrunning World Championships (skyrunning)
World Snowshoe Championships (snowshoe running)
Animal locomotion on land
Arboreal locomotion (Brachiation)
Comparative foot morphology
Animal locomotion on the surface layer of water
Cross country running
Mountain bike orienteering
Road bicycle racing
Mountain bike racing
Sled dog racing
Open water swimming
Sports car racing
Touring car racing
Stock car racing
Drag boat racing
Jet sprint boat racing
Inshore powerboat racing
Offshore powerboat racing
Radio-controlled car racing
Slot car racing