History has it recorded that Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, is said to have run from Marathon to Athens in 490 BC with the all-important news that victory was achieved at the battle of Marathon. Evidence of humans taking part in running also go back to as far as 333 BC, with a scene found on a Panathenaic amphora from Ancient Greece depicting long distance runners. Bronze statues discovered at Herculaneum, an ancient town in the Campania district of Italy around 70 AD, show men in a running pose. In addition, the Tailteann Games were funeral games held from around 1600 BC to 1171 AD in Pre-Christian Ireland, at which time it ended after the Norman invasion. Funeral games are athletic competitions held in honour of a deceased person.
The sport of running can be categorised in aerobic (like 10 km), or anaerobic (like 100 metres). The focus here is on aerobic and specifically on distance running up to levels more commonly known as ultra-running. There are many health benefits of running, but like any sport, it can lead to injuries. Cardiotoxicity can occur for excessive distance runners who take part in marathons (42.2 km) or longer distances, where the heart becomes weaker and therefore less effective in pumping and circulating blood in the body. The benefits are many and some of these include help in losing weight, reducing the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and strengthening of the bones. Like any exercise, running reverses the effects of aging and improves the general emotional state of the athlete.
The first Olympic marathon was won by Spyridon Louis of Greece at the 1896 Games in Athens. It took a further 88 years before the first Olympic women’s race was held at Los Angeles. The winner was Joan Benoit of the USA. An ultramarathon is a race longer than a marathon, with common distances around 50 km (31.07 mi), 100 km (32.14 mi), 50 miles (80.47 km), and 100 miles (160.93 km). The 100 km is recognised as an official world record event by World Athletics, but there are many other races with different distances. The International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) is the world governing body for ultra-running. IAU regulates races like the 100 km World Championships, the 50 km World Championships, the 24-Hour World Championships, and the Trail World Championships. IAU was founded in 1984 and operates under the patronage of World Athletics.