The History of Running as a Sport and Recreation

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The history of running – as an activity – would be quite interesting to discuss. Unless we define it a bit further, talking about the history of running would be the same as talking about the history of breathing or eating. However, if we’re talking about the history of running as a recreational activity, there’s much more structure to the matter.

Running, as a sport, supposedly originated in ancient Greece, around 2,700 years ago. The first-ever recorded recreational run was actually a sprint from one side of the Olympic Games arena to the other. That said, let’s see how this sport evolved further throughout history.

The early days

As mentioned earlier, it’s almost impossible to track through history the very beginnings of this sport. However, way back in the 16th century there appear to be mentions of jogging. Jogging was commonly practiced by swordsmen as a form of pre-battle training. This is also the first time we actually see running used as an integral part of a regular training routine. Nowadays, modern runners have moved far away from their ancestors. While running still makes a huge part of workout routines, modern runners get to enjoy far more perks. The gear used for running has evolved significantly since its early days. So, now, you can even find excellent winter running jackets, which is certainly not something aforementioned soldiers and swordsmen were able to enjoy. 

The late 19th century

Moving more towards the present, running and jogging became integral parts of so many athlete’s workout routines. The numerous benefits running brings were becoming increasingly recognized. What’s more, running became a discipline on its own in the modern Olympics back in 1896. Additionally, in 1897 the Boston Marathon was born. That led to a huge boost in popularity we can still see to this day. What’s also interesting to note is the fact that running used to be a male-only sport, which is not so surprising considering the fact that women entered the sports scene in its entirety a bit later. Nowadays, running and jogging are not just considered sports. To some, they present a form of mental therapy. To others, they are a great socializing tool. 

The 20th century

Here, the first year worth mentioning is 1909. This was the year that marked the beginning of the so-called marathon mania. In America, the first five ever marathons to be held in New York were all held on days of great significance. This is presumed to stem from the fact that games – and particularly the Olympic Games – were held in honor of the gods. Throughout history, you can come across various similar events in many other nations. Then we move onto the running boom of the 70s where nearly twenty-five million people became hobby runners. In 1984, women were finally able to enter the running scene. 

The 21st century

As we all know, running is still a very popular sport. With 715 marathons scheduled in the US alone, it becomes quite clear that the popularity of this sport is far from diminishing. Moreover, you may have also noticed that the modern market is anything but lacking in innovative solutions and gadgets designed for runners specifically.  What this means is that running is no longer treated solely as a sport. Instead, it practically became a well-developed industry.


Even though running as we know it today is quite different from what it was in the early days, it is still one of the favorite recreational activities. And by tracking its evolution and growth throughout history, it’s safe to assume that it will stay popular for many years to come.