40 Random Facts You Did Not Know About Running

Following is a slightly modified iteration of an article I wrote on a different blog. The piece was easily my most popular from the site, having been read by tens of thousands.

Disclaimer: I researched these points carefully. I tried to use multiple sources during my inquest; in many cases I have linked to them. Still, my information is only as good as its source. If you feel any point needs correction, please advise. Also, given the ever-changing landscape of running achievements, a few of these facts will likely be nullified in the future as new records are set.

40 Random Facts about Running and Runners

  1. Of the 8,000 dedicated runners surveyed in the 2007 National Runner Survey, 53% were male, and 47% were female; 93% run at least three days per week, 64% at least four days per week, and 35% run five or more days per week; 35% have never completed a marathon, 64% have finished at least one or more, 33% have finished at least four or more, and 17% have finished ten or more marathons; 94% are college educated.
  2. At regular points during the running cycle both feet are off the ground.
  3. The first recorded Olympic running games took place in 776 BCE.
  4. The Tailteann Games, an Irish sporting festival honoring Goddess Tailtiu, dates back to 1829 BCE; it is one of the earliest records of competitive running.
  5. Human feet can produce a pint of sweat per day.

  6. Running, though generally a faster means of transit, is less efficient than walking in terms of calories expended per unit distance. Due to air resistance at higher speeds, running on a track requires more energy than walking to cover the same distance. As reported by Hall et al., men on a track running at a pace of 6.3 mph use 1.2 times as much energy to travel the same distance as when walking at a pace of 3.15 mph; but, when on a treadmill running 6.3 mph they use just 1.01 times as much energy to travel the same distance as when walking at 3.15 mph.
  7. Exercise physiologists have found that stride rates are extremely consistent among professional runners; they are between 185 and 200 steps per minute.
  8. The fastest human foot speed on record is 44.72 km/h (27.79 mph), seen during a 100-meter sprint by Usain Bolt.
  9. 9.58 seconds: The current male 100-meter run world record set by Usain Bolt of Jamaica on August 16, 2009, at the 2009 World Athletics Championships.
  10. 10.49 seconds: The current female 100-meter run world record set by Florence Griffith-Joyner.
  11. Track lanes are 1.22 meters (4 ft) wide.
  12. The marathon races in the first few Olympic Games were not of a set length. They were approximately twenty-five miles—roughly the distance from Marathon to Athens by the longer, flatter route.
  13. Horst Preisler of Germany is one of only a handful of people to have run over 1,000 marathon distance races. At the time of this article he holds the world record for the most marathons run in a lifetime, having completed 1,670.
  14. “Runner’s High” is a real phenomenon. From the Oxford Journal: “Ten athletes were scanned at 2 separate occasions in random order, at rest and after 2 h of endurance running (21.5 ± 4.7 km). Binding kinetics of [18F]FDPN were quantified by basis pursuit denoising (DEPICT software). Statistical parametric mapping (SPM2) was used for voxelwise analyses to determine relative changes in ligand binding after running and correlations of opioid binding with euphoria ratings. Reductions in opioid receptor availability were identified preferentially in prefrontal and limbic/paralimbic brain structures. The level of euphoria was significantly increased after running and was inversely correlated with opioid binding in prefrontal/orbitofrontal cortices, the anterior cingulate cortex, bilateral insula, parainsular cortex, and temporoparietal regions. These findings support the “opioid theory” of the runner’s high and suggest region-specific effects in frontolimbic brain areas that are involved in the processing of affective states and mood.”
  15. The first recorded fell running (hill running) race took place in Scotland. King Malcolm Canmore organized a race in Braemar in 1040—or perhaps as late as 1064—reputedly to find a swift messenger.
  16. 2 h 3:38 min: The current male marathon world record set by Patrick Makau of Kenya on September 25, 2011, at the Berlin Marathon. Though Geoffrey Mutai, also of Kenya, ran a 2:03:02 race at the 2011 Boston Marathon, the IAAF contends that, “due to the elevation drop and point-to-point measurements of the Boston course, performances [on that course] are not eligible for World record consideration.”
  17. 2 h 15:25 min: The current female marathon world record set by Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain on April 13, 2003, at the London Marathon.
  18. In 2005, the average marathon time in the U.S. was 4 h 32:08 min for men, and 5 h 6:08 min for women.
  19. Runners can store about 2,000 calories worth of glycogen in their bodies—enough to fuel about thirty km (eighteen to twenty miles) of running.
  20. Over one billion pairs of running shoes are sold worldwide each year.
  21. According to a study presented in 2010, running a marathon can result in decreased function of more than half the segments in the heart’s main pumping chamber—fortunately other parts of the heart take over. Full recovery is reached within three months or less. The fitter the runner, the lesser the effect.
  22. South Africa hosts the world’s oldest and largest ultra-marathon, the ninety-km Comrades Marathon. Approximately 12,000 runners complete Comrades each year, with over 24,500 competing in 2000.
  23. Western States Endurance Run is the world’s oldest 100-mile trail run. The race began unofficially in 1974 when local horseman Gordy Ainsleigh’s horse for the 100-mile Tevis Cup horse-race came up lame. He decided to travel the course on foot, finishing in twenty-three hours, forty-seven minutes.
  24. Dean Karnazes is one of the most prolific modern runners. He has completed a number of endurance events; most notably, he ran 135 miles nonstop across Death Valley in 120°F (49°C) weather, and a marathon to the South Pole at −40°F (-40°C).  In 2006, he ran fifty marathons in all fifty US states in fifty consecutive days, finishing with the New York City Marathon, which he completed in three hours and thirty seconds.
  25. Since the mid-1970s, three independent groups have collected data on heart attack deaths during marathons. When the results are pooled together, more than 4.5 million marathoners over the last thirty years are taken into account. Of these, forty-one runners died of heart attacks, a rate of one in every 110,476.
  26. A 220-pound person running an eight-minute mile burns about 150 calories per mile, while a 120-pound person running at the same pace only burns about 82 calories.
  27. The Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, is the largest US running race. It has well over 100,000 participants annually.
  28. At the time of this article the oldest person to complete a marathon is Sikh Fauja Singh. At the age of 100, he ran the 2011 Toronto Waterfront Marathon in eight hours, twenty-five minutes, and eight seconds.
  29. There are upwards of seventy-five million runners in the USA.
  30. Abebe Bikila ran the 1960 Summer Olympics marathon barefoot in a record time of 2 h 15:16 min.
  31. During a ten-mile run, the feet make about 15,000 strikes at a force of three to four times the body’s weight.
  32. Twenty-six bones, thirty-three joints, one-hundred-twelve ligaments, and a network of tendons, nerves, and blood vessels—all in the feet—have to work together when we run.
  33. During a 200-mile run, Dean Karnazes kept a food log. He consumed 28,000 calories in forty-six hours, seventeen minutes of running—he still lost five pounds!
  34. Nerve impulses travel to and from the brain at 170 miles per hour when we run.
  35. It takes 200 muscles to take a step.
  36. When we run the human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood thirty feet.
  37. 3 min 43.13 sec: The fastest recorded mile time for a human, ran by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco on July 7, 1999.
  38. 4 min 12.56 sec: The fastest recorded mile time for a female ran by Svetlana Masterkova of Russia on August 14, 1996.
  39. The cheetah is considered the fastest land animal. It can achieve speeds upwards of seventy miles per hour.
  40. The garden snail is considered the slowest land animal with a speed of only .03 miles per hour.


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5 Responses to 40 Random Facts You Did Not Know About Running

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