Saturday, July 29, 2017

In the beginning was ... the foot race

The Greeks were the first ancient nation to acknowledge the importance of corporeal exercise. (Guhl & Koner, 1994). Athletic games and religion were the central part of the lives of the ancient Greeks and a key ingredient of many religious festivals. Distance was important and the human foot was predominant in all measuring systems. The ancient Egyptians used a "step" for a measurement, actually a two step stride was equivalent to two yards. The ancient Greeks adopted this and a distance of 100"steps" (about 200 metres) became a stade. This was a popular distance for foot races. Amphitheatres where foot races were held were called a stadium. Later a miole or mille passum (Latin) meant 1000 double paces or strides and in ancient Rome this equaled about 5000 feet or a little short of the accepted mile (5,282 feet). The 200 metre (656 ft), foot race was the only event in the first 13 Olympiads, but as time passed the Greeks added different events.

At first longer foot races were added then other physical events. The pentathlon and wrestling were the first new sports and these appeared in the 19th Olympiad. The foot race consisted of a simple race in which the race course had to be run over once from beginning to end. The runners used to appear naked except in earlier times when they wore loin cloths. Any tricks bribery, or force employed by competitors to gain advantage upon others were strictly prohibited.

After 450 BCE foot races started from mechanical starting gate. The starter had a whip with which to beat the athletes who started too soon or broke the rules. The stadium's length was 192 m long and 32 m wide. Armoured racing featured a grueling event in which competitors, in body armour weighing an estimated 25kg, ran two to four lengths of the Olympic stadium. These and other events were part of military training.

Guhl E Koner W 1994 The greeks:their life and customs London:Senate
Hanna A 1985 Design in strude:explorations in shoe design Industrial Design Jan/Feb pp40-45.

1 comment:

Tough Cookie said...

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