Thursday, June 07, 2012
An interesting Slate article puts a wide angle lens on humans, horses, and our relative athletic prowess.
The writer compares them in light of two Man versus Horse running events, one in Wales, one in Arizona.
In both, men have occasionally beaten horse and rider.
He writes, “...the funny marathon is one of the few sports that isn’t a joke.”
When comparing our feats to other animals, he continues, we come out looking pretty lame. Michael Jordan? What about that cat who just leaped onto your fridge? Like, no big deal.
We need cars to go from 0 to 60. Cheetahs do it as often as we pull up a chair up to the dinner table.
BUT, we are indeed built for the long haul. We have slow-twitch muscle fibers which favor endurance over speed. Most animals, he writes, “are geared for sprinting because they’re either predators that chase or prey that run away.”
Being relatively naked helps, too, as we dissipate heat better than furrier, hairier animals.
Survival back in the days was all about running and cunning.
“When distant, circling vultures tipped them off about a lion kill, they had to get there before hyenas…Humans typically could only outrace hyenas in the hot sun. As a result, they carved out a new carnivore niche: the hot-day meat chaser.”
But there’s no doubt that as we developed a bigger, energy-eating brain, our athleticism was compromised.
Like I say, an interesting article. But it left me with two questions:
1. What if there was NO rider. Would a human ever win against a horse?
2. Will technology and our sedentary lives will give us steel bottoms and lightening fast thumb speed?