Factoid: "Humans are the best long distance runners on the planet". True?

I came across this factoid here: http://unbelievable-facts.tumblr.com/post/45407291154/humans-are-the-best-long-distance-runners-on-the-planet

“Humans are the best long-distance runners on the planet, able to beat horses (and everything else) in marathon distance races”

The first thing that came to me upon reading this factoid was the condescending dog

“Oh, you ran a marathon? How heavy was the sled?”

Is the factoid true?

As I understand it we are certainly very high up there, being perfectly capable of hunting most large land animals by simply chasing after them until they fall over from overheating & exhaustion. I don’t know that we are literally the “best” long distance runners - for one thing, “best” would have to be clearly defined.

I would say sled dogs would have to rank very high. Wolves have a similar manner of hunting as do cape hunting dogs in Africa. Most animals can run so much faster than us that they are out of sight pretty quickly.

About the only competition would be the canids (wolves and dogs). Humans have a better capacity to shed heat, so that under warm conditions we would have the edge.

More on the idea here.

As a hunting technique, this probably evolved on the plains of East Africa where quarry could be kept in sight over large distances, and tracked if it got out of sight.

That was interesting, I know one time at about 13 years old I ran approx 7 miles just for the heck of it with no training outside of being an active kid so we must have some genetic predisposition for distance running. I have to wonder if man didn’t evolve side by side with the dogs who he could see running animals down. I feel like humans are the only animal that has selectively bred itself and potentialy short circuited the pace of normal evolution.

Good article here about a group of men trying to run down a pronghorn in New Mexico:

I’ve read stuff like this in a few places including a Scientific American article about sweating. For instance, on a warm day we can outrun a horse (according to one source).

Certainly it depends on the human in question :smiley: But sure I’d love to take credit for belonging to the species that is the best marathon runner, haha!

If we aren’t, well then we are easily the best animal at just sitting on our asses on the couch staring at a glowing box. No other animals can beat us at that, I bet!

Horses sweat too. If we can outrun a horse because of heat, it’s likely because we have more surface area per units of volume.

But yes, sweating is much better than panting at shedding off heat.

We have more sweat glands than (as far as I know, most) other mammals – specifically, we have a LOT more sweat glands than the other two species of chimpanzee, our nearest relatives.

Also, prey animals don’t overfill on water thinking they may have to outrun a primate that day, whereas, a smart hominid might have learned from experience to fill up before attempting to outrun some prey.

Horses are also covered in hair instead of naked skin, and four legged. Bipedalism is slower than quadrupedalism, but more energy efficient.

Persistence hunting as practiced by the Kalahari bushmen is a good example of this technique. Most animals don’t run forever; just until they feel they are back inside cover. Spooked elephants might be an exception, according to many accounts I’ve read about elephant hunting in the late 1800s in Africa. But I think a kudu is just going to run until it thinks it has good cover, and then stop. Thus an expert persistence hunter can make sure it never gets a decent recovery rest.

If humans couldn’t outrun dogs, why weren’t we hunted to extinction by them? Perhaps we were better at organizing our defenses and also driving them away from carrion than they were at driving us away, so they became beholden to us for scraps. As far as hunting live game: they may have taught us the basics, then attached themselves to our pack because of our endurance running.

I recall some nature show that explained wolf pack hunting technique: one subset of the pack will start the herd of reindeer running in the direction of a waiting second subset. The reindeer can outdistance the first group, but not the second, who will pick off the stragglers.

First, you only have to be faster than the slowest guy in the group; not the attacking animal…

But another underappreciated human superiority is a human with a weapon–especially a club. Not to mention many other defensive advantages of big brains in groups.

Because they didn’t exist for one thing - dogs are domesticated wolves. No humans means no dogs.

Man cannot outrun any predator that I am aware of if he is being chased. Man is so much slower than predators that the only explanation could be they did not see man as prey but a predator most likley.

The Animal Kingdom’s Top Marathoners (Popular Mechanics)

Their source is Peter Weyand, professor of physiology and biomechanics at Southern Methodist University.
Ostriches’ long legs are mainly made up of tendon, which allow them to maintain high speeds for longer periods of time. “Every time they land on a foot, it stretches [the tendon, which] recoils back to pop them back up into the air,” Peter Weyand says. “It works almost like a pogo stick.” Once the bird gets up to speed, this spring-like action pops the leg off the ground with every step, which allows it to maintain its forward momentum. The actual leg muscle is located closer to the body of the bird, which also makes the leg lighter. An Ostrich would finish a marathon in about 45 minutes.

See, the thing is, prehistoric humans had this tendency to go around carrying pointed sticks.

You can’t separate man from his tools.