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Endurance Running Hypothesis (wikipedia.org)
97 points by Petiver on Sept 18, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 52 comments

Yup - our ability to store large amounts of glycogen, sweat and long legs are very likely to be evolutionary traits that made it easier to hunt by chasing after animals without these traits and tiring them out to the point they cannot escape

fwiw "We suggest that increases in eccrine function are not dependent upon increased physical activity or reduced body hair. Therefore, enhanced sweating capacity may have evolved in Australopithecus or even earlier hominins, driven largely by climate. The additional increase in modern human sweating capacity evolved later, concurrent with long distance walking and running." page 40

"The evolution of eccrine sweat glands in human and nonhuman primates"


So when we look at a "primate family tree coloured based on sweating ability" …?


Also see the excellent This American Life podcast: Running After Antelope Stories of people engaged in a battle with nature — a battle they don't stand much chance of winning. Most of the show is Scott Carrier's story of trying for twelve years to chase down and catch an antelope by foot.


An excellent book on this topic from about 10 years ago: Born to Run

I've inferred the entire contents of the book from the plethora of HN comments discussing it.

This was my opinion too until I read it. Definitely well worth a read if you're at all interested in running, fitness and human evolution. The autobiographical story parts are great reading, too.

I don't care at all for running (I'm a bike guy), but it's still a fun read.

It's a really fascinating story on top of all of the running stuff.

FWIW I doubt it. This has nothing to do with you and everything to do eith the book. It's a great book and the comments I have seen here only hit on a few central points of the book.

It is a fantastic story, even if you don't care about running. I was shocked that it wasn't a documentary format so much as a very raw and emotional first person account.

reading by proxy (by couple of orders of magnitude) is no substitute for the real thing. you probably would be better off reading top reviews on amazon :) or even the blinkist app for that matter. but then again, ‘reading someones description of sistine chapel michelangelo paintings vs seeing it yourself’ and all that...

edit: minor details

One side of "Born to Run" is the first-person story; another side is gonzo journalism / supposedly factual reporting.

How well does the reporting fact-check?

From "Born to Run":

"But what surprised Dr. Marti … was the fact that the most common variable among the casualties wasn't training surface, running speed, weekly mileage, or "competitive training motivation." It wasn't even body weight, or a history of previous injury: it was the price of the shoe." page 172

From Dr Marti's report:

"Occurrence of jogging injuries was independently associated with higher weekly mileage (P < 0.001), history of previous running injuries (P < 0.001), and competitive training motivation (P = 0.03)."



"Injuries were not significantly related to race running speed, training surface, characteristics of running shoes, or relative weight."


Perhaps, somewhere, Dr. Marti did in-fact express surprise about "the most common variable" — whatever that means.

However, at-best Christopher McDougall seems to have chosen not to report conclusions that could have helped some runners avoid injury.

Also an interesting TED talk by the author: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-iGZPtWXzE

...and two talks at "Authors at Google" (apparently he spoke there twice within one week):



I only got past the first 1/3 of the book.

Extended use of the noble savage trope mixed with iconoclastic views on brands like Nike might make the reader feel like they’ve entered a fresh new world. And yet I found zero value for someone who wants to improve his capacity as a runner/athlete.

The author is a good storyteller but that’s where it ends.

If one is interested in tearing down current sporty world views, might I suggest going after the HIT fad?

> … someone who wants to improve his capacity as a runner/athlete…

"Running Rewired: Reinvent Your Run for Stability, Strength, and Speed"


Did you mean HIIT? Because that’s well supported by numerous studies and is unlikely to go away. The tradeoffs seem to be reduced weight loss for improved cardiovascular fitness.

HIIT, yes.

To clarify: I mean specifically the over-emphasis on intensity by amateurs for competitions longer than a few minutes.

Fair enough, various forms of interval training have been commonly used to condition for endurance sports all the way back to the 1950’s. It’s all about building aerobic capacity via anaerobic exercise.

But, the current spike is probably going to go away.

If you like Born to Run you should check out Natural Born Heroes if you have not already read it. It's sort of the WW2 variant of Born to Run.

I heard about it, is it good book?

A really good read, quite interesting ideas and it certainly changed my outlook on running and movement.

Putting a link to the "Lykov Family" Wikipedia page in the middle of this article is just plain evil; I'm trying to get some work done here!

I was captured by the same thread; I was particularly looking forward for any material on how/if their language diverged from the general population's. Over this long span of time, even in such a small group, do they end up speaking a dialect?

Couldn't find material on that, still looking

The Lykov Family have been well-covered. VICE had a decent piece covering the sole remaining member: Agafia. Their speech did somewhat devolve, and children born out in the taiga had developed their own cooing pidgin that they spoke to each other, IIRC.

We also have hidden adaptations to water:


There is actually a hypothesis related to this called the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, but (IMHO) it seems to go too far.


This video of a San hunter chasing down a Kudu is pretty good:


I was lucky enough to spend time with the San people, and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.


Hunters or Scavengers?

"Rewards of Scavenging … I spent about seven months simulating passive scavenging by waiting until the carnivores had eaten their fill and moved off, and then documenting how much meat and marrow was left on carcasses. … An entire zebra carcass could yield almost 15 kilograms of meat in scraps of various sizes."

"Meat-Eating Among the Earliest Humans" Briana Pobiner, March-April 2016, Volume 104, Number 2, Page 110.


Oh God I should get back on running

Just Do It™

A few years ago some Kenyans chased down a couple cheetahs:


Running bellow 14 km/h is not running.

The fact you had to use the word 'running' to describe the thing you claim is 'not running' makes me skeptical about your claim.

I'm happy when I run at 10 km/h, which is already a big physical effort for me, so stfu.

Running just means both your feet are off the ground. You can run in place.

Running is more about the gait that the speed.

Could you explain what you mean? 14 km/hr is about a 3 hr marathon pace, which is definitely on the faster side.

kids these days...

Running below 15 km/h is not running.

Running below water is not running. It's swimming

Running on water is incredible.

Did it once. Scared some guys in a boat, but besides that it was not that great. Wouldn't do it again.

What about CMS (electrostimulation with electrodes), can it raise the energy level and such like raw exercising? I'm becoming very intrigued about CMS, as a 'low energy individual'.

Last time I researched the topic, the conclusion was the level of simulation was too low in comparison with a real exercise. It still has its use in physiotherapy and rehabilitation though.

My answer to low energy is coffee. Do stupid things faster (c)!

Made me think of the Tarahumara[0].

>> The Tarahumara word for themselves, Rarámuri, means "runners on foot" or "those who run fast" in their native tongue according to some early ethnographers like Norwegian Carl Lumholtz, though this interpretation has not been fully agreed upon. With widely dispersed settlements, these people developed a tradition of long-distance running up to 200 miles (320 km) in one session, over a period of two days through their homeland of rough canyon country, for inter-village communication, transportation, and hunting.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rar%C3%A1muri

By "made you think" you mean it explicitly mentions them, along with many other examples. The link you provide is even in the OP.

Whoops, you caught me skimming a wikipedia article :)

Although listed (but not having any references), a notable Rarámuri member is María Lorena Ramírez, who at 22 years old ran (and won) a 50k in 'traditional' clothing and sandals.


"Instead of sports clothes and running shoes, she is dressed in a skirt and a pair of sandals with soles made from recycled tire rubber."

This is described in detail in the above mentioned book, which is a very good read.

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