RUNNING, the most primitive form of athletic exercise considered as a sport. Athletic apparatus of every kind has been improved in modern times, but the spiked running-shoe may be said to represent the sole advantage enjoyed by the modern runner over his Olympic prototype. As an athletic sport running has been in vogue from the earliest times, and the simple foot-race (δρόμος), run straight away from starting-point to goal, or once over the course of the stadion (a little over 200 yds.), formed an event in the Greek pentathlon, or quintuple games (see Games, Classical). It was diversified with the race once over the course and return, and the διάυλος, a long run many times (often as many as twelve, i.e. about 23⁄4 m.) up and down the stadion. There was also the δρόμος ὸπλιτῶν, a short race for warriors, who wore full armour and carried sword and shield, which has been imitated by the modern military race in full marching order. Except in the warriors' race the Greek runners were naked, save occasionally for a pair of light shoes. No records of the times made by the runners in the Greek races have been handed down. It may be inferred that the contests were very severe, since the ancient Olympic chronicles preserve the memory of several runners, of whom Ladas was the most conspicuous, who fell dead at the completion of the long course, and were buried in state with their brows encircled by the victor's chaplet. In ancient Italy running was practised in circus exhibitions, as described by Virgil (Aen. v. 286 seq.).
In the middle ages the best runners were oftenest found among the couriers maintained by potentates and municipalities, those of Tartary, England, Scotland, Italy and the Basque country having enjoyed the greatest reputation, while the Peichs, or Persian couriers of the Turkish sultans, often ran from Constantinople to Adrianople and back, a distance of about 220 m., in two days and nights. Many couriers carried silver beads in their mouths to obviate thirst. Couriers (syce) who run before the carriages of their masters are still in use in the East. In the districts of India not traversed by railways, dak runners are still employed to carry the mails from village to village, many wearing bells about their necks to frighten away the tigers. The runners of the American Indians were famous, and extraordinary tales are told of their swiftness and endurance.
In all parts of Great Britain, running at short distances, as
well as steeplechases and cross-country runs, has been popular
for many centuries, each district and period having its
champions, some of whom achieved national reputation. Dur
the Puritan rule and that of Charles II. athletic sports all but
died out in England, only to be revived with renewed vigour
in the early part of the 19th century, when the public schools
and universities began to pay more attention to them. A
significant event in the history of running was the institution
of the famous “Crick Run” (cross-country) at Rugby in 1837.
The establishment of the Cambridge University sports (1857),
the Oxford sports (1860), and the British championship meetings
(1866) placed athletics upon a formal and recognized basis.
Records made thereafter received the stamp of authenticity,
those made in former years being doubtful on account of lax
measurements and timing. In the United States and Canada
authentic records date from the institution of the American
Championships in 1876. The National Association of Amateur
Athletes of America was formed in 1880.
Running at the present day is divided into sprinting (distances up to one-quarter of a mile), middle-distance running (from one-quarter of a mile to 1000 yds.) and long-distance running (over 1000 yds.).
Sprinting consists of running over short distances with a full and continuous burst of speed, the chief distances being 100 yds., 220 yds. and quarter-mile. Distances up to and including 220 yds. are in America called dashes. The course for sprinting races, when run in the open air, is marked off in lanes for the individual runners by means of cords stretched upon short iron rods. Starting in sprints has now become very expert. The old method of dropping a handkerchief was the worst possible way to give the starting signal, since the muscles react most slowly to impressions of sight, less so to those of touch, and most quickly to those of sound, a difference of 4⁄100 of a second in reaction amounting to over one foot in a run of 100 yds. All modern foot-races are therefore started by the pistol; the runners wait for the signal in a crouching attitude, with the fingers of both hands resting on the ground on each side of the body, from which position they spring upwards and forwards at the sound of the pistol. The crouching start was found to be much quicker in getting off the mark than the upright attitude formerly adopted, and by 1892 had been adopted by all first-class sprinters in America, and a year or two later in Great Britain. Another advantage is that the runner is steadier on the mark, and since its adoption the prescribed penalty of being placed one yard behind the mark for starting before the pistol-shot has been very seldom enforced, and the risky experiment of “beating the pistol,” i.e. letting the body fall forward in the hope that the shot would come before the feet had to be moved, has practically disappeared.
The improvement in training and the adoption of the crouching start have resulted in the continued reduction of sprinting records. “Even time,” or 10 secs., is still considered a fine performance for the hundred yards, but has been repeatedly beaten both in England and America. A. F. Duffey, who, like C. A. Bradley and J. W. Morton, won the English championship in four successive years, shares with D. J. Kelly the record, 93⁄5 secs., for 100 yds.; and J. W. Morton, a Scot, as well as J. H. Hempton and W. T. Macpherson of New Zealand, are credited with 94⁄5 secs. The excellence of American runners in the sprints is probably accounted for partly by temperament influenced by climate; but the American practice of running short races of from 50 to 75 yds. during the numerous indoor meetings held in winter-time offers excellent training in starting and getting rapidly into full stride.
The best time for the eighth mile (220 yds.), a distance often run in America, is 211⁄5 secs., made in 1896 on a straightaway track by B. J. Wefers.
The quarter-mile (440 yds.) is almost always run on a curved track, and hence a quick start is important, for should the runner who has the advantage of the inside position allow himself to be outrun in the distance to the first turn, one of his opponents is likely to cut in and deprive him of it, while on the other hand a runner on the outside must actually outrun the inside man in order to be on even terms after the turn. The element of strategy, unknown in straight sprints, thus enters into the quarter. Speed is, of course, the chief requisite for a quarter-miler, but a certain amount of staying power is also necessary. The standard time for the quarter is 50 secs., which means an average speed of 11.3 secs, for each 100 yds. round the course. That of M. W. Long of Columbia University, who made the record, 47 secs., in 1900, was on that occasion 10.68 secs, for each hundred yards.
The system of “relay races,” usually run by four men each going a quarter of the distance, is a popular variety. The favourite distance is a mile, each man running a quarter at top speed. This method of racing was introduced in the United States about the year 1890 on the model of the Massachusetts firemen's “bean-pot” races, and has since become very popular there. The old method was for the men running the second quarter of the course to wait on the mark for the first relay men to arrive, and then, snatching small flags from their hands, to continue the race, handing over the flags to the third relay upon completing their quarter. The flags, being cumbersome, were afterwards abandoned, and the new runners are now required only to touch the persons of the preceding contestants. The 1 m. record, 3 min. 212⁄5 secs., was made in 1898 by B. J. Wefers, M. W. Long, T. E. Burke and H. S. Lyons of the New York Athletic Club.
Middle-Distance Running. — The chief middle distances are 600 yds., 660 yds., 880 yds. (half-mile) and 1000 yds., but of these the half-mile is the only one commonly recognized in championship sports. Endurance is more important at these distances, though speed is essential, and the element of strategy increases. An element unknown to sprinting enters into middle- and long-distance runs, namely that of pace-making; even when the real race is between two individuals at least one other runner on each side takes part in the contest, in order to “make the pace” for his principal. Emilio Lunghi (U.S.A.) holds the half-mile world's record of 1 min. 524⁄5 secs., made in 1909. J. F. K. Cross of Oxford University ran the half-mile at Oxford in 1888 in 1 min. 543⁄5 secs. The record for 1000 yds., 2 min. 13 secs., was made by L. E. Myers (U.S.A.). The distance of three-quarters of a mile is seldom run now at large meetings.
Long-Distance Running. — This includes all flat races of 1 m. or more, as well as Steeplechasing, hare-and-hounds, and other forms of cross-country running. Great Britain has always been the home of long-distance running, different forms of cross-country racing having been popular all over the kingdom for centuries. In England at the championship meeting the distance events on the flat are the 1 m., 4 m. and 10 m. races, and in the inter-university sports the 1 m. and 3 m.; in America the distances are 1 m., 2 m. and 5 m.; but any and all of these distances are often included in important British and American programmes. Hard daily training is necessary for a distance runner. Good pace-making and strategy in general are of great importance. The runner must learn to “run to the watch,” i.e. to cover the different portions of the distance in a certain time, in order to be placed most advantageously for the finish. The mile race requires speed as well as stamina. Most champion milers are capable of doing the half under 2 min. The record for the mile, made in 1886 at Lillie Bridge by W. G. George, as a professional, is 4 min., 123⁄4 secs.; the amateur record is 4 min. 153⁄5 secs., made by T. P. Conneff in America, J. Binks, holding the British amateur record with 4 min. 164⁄5 secs., made at Stamford Bridge in 1902. The longer-distance races require more stamina than speed, and a careful husbanding of strength.
The following table gives the records (up to 1908) for the distance runs on the flat, longer than 1 m.: —
In addition to the records for the above-mentioned distances, Shrubb held in 1908 the records for 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11 m., and also for the greatest distance covered in 1 h., namely, 11 m. 1316 yds. He won the 4 m. and the 10 m. British championship 1901-4 inclusive, and the 1 m. championship 1903 and 1904; also the French 1 m. and 3 m. championship 1902-4 inclusive. Shrubb was moreover a first-rate cross-country runner also; he won the British 10 m. cross-country championship 1901-4 inclusive, and the international 8 m. cross-country championship 1902-4. In 1863 a full-blooded Seneca Indian, L. Bennet, known as “Deerfoot,” ran 12 m. in 1 h. 2 m. 21⁄2 secs.
Real cross-country running is a fast jog over hill and dale. It may take the form of a race from the gymnasium or clubhouse across the fields to a given spot and back again, passing certain objects or buildings; of a practice run behind the coach preparatory to a long-distance race on the track; or of a paper-chase, or hare-and-hounds, the “hares,” two or three in number, starting a few minutes before the “hounds,” and leaving a trail of scraps of paper dropped from bags, which must be followed by the “hounds.” In Great Britain the standard distance is 10 m., but in America it is somewhat less, the distance for the intercollegiate championship race being 61⁄4 m.
Steeplechasing was originally only a cross-country run over a course plentifully provided with natural obstacles, such as brooks, ditches, fences and hedges; but at the present day the steeplechase takes place in the inner enclosure of an athletic field and the obstacles are artificial. They are placed about 70 or 80 yds. apart, and consist of hurdles, a stone wall about 3 ft. high and 2 or 3 ft. broad, and a water-jump, a ditch about 6 ft. broad filled with water and guarded by a wall or fence covered with thick furze or other thick shrubbery. Steeplechase courses differ widely, but the usual distance both in Great Britain and America is 2 m. The time necessary to cover this distance varies according to the difficulties of the course, but a few seconds under 11 min. is considered very fast time.
Team-racing is a favourite form of distance running, each team consisting of 10 men and the distance usually 4 m., the standard of the modern Olympic Games. Different systems of scoring are in vogue, but the usual one allows the winner ten points, the second to arrive nine, and so on, the tenth arrival scoring one. The team aggregating the highest number of points wins.
Among modern distance events the Marathon Run of about 40 kilometres (24 m. 1500 yds.) is the most important. It was introduced in the first revived Olympic Games at Athens in 1896 (see Athletic Sports) in memory of the famous Greek runner who was said to have brought the news of the battle of Marathon in Athens, dropping dead when his task was finished.