Inflammatory headline? Of course. But David Stipp makes a compelling case at Slate:
There’s no denying it—our kind started substituting brains for brawn long ago, and it shows: We can’t begin to compete with animals when it comes to the raw ingredients of athletic prowess. Yet being the absurdly self-enthralled species we are, we crowd into arenas and stadiums to marvel at our pathetic physical abilities as if they were something special. But there is one exception to our general paltriness: We’re the right honorable kings and queens of the planet when it comes to long-distance running.
Stipp cites a couple of man-vs-horse marathons where humans actually win. There’s one in Wales and another in Arizona. He also gets into the biophysical mechanics of human long-distance running (everything from counter-rotating torsos to advanced heat dissipation) that enable us to maintain much higher speeds over long distances (especially in warm and temperate climates) than the closest competitors.
This whole idea that humans are evolved runners really resonates with me, and it’s actually reinforced my own desire to run longer and longer. I’m not very good yet (10 miles is my longest run), but the longer I go the more I feel like “Yeah, this is how it’s supposed to be.” It just feels right.