Running Deep

Speculations on the Evolution of Running and Spirituality in the Genus Homo


  • Robert R. Sands Air University
  • Linda R. Sands CH2M HILL



evolutionary biology, kiniseology, neurobiology, ethnography


Recently, there has been a plethora of work that has cast Homo, possibly Homo erectus as an established distance (endurance) runner (Carrier, 1984; Heinrich, 2001; Bramble and Lieberman 2004, Liebenberg 2006, Lieberman et al 2006, Lieberman and Bramble 2007, Lieberman et al., 2007). Speculations on selection for endurance running have focused on acquisition of animal protein, in the form of scavenging and hunting, specifically "persistence hunting"(Carrier, 1984; Heinrich,2001; Bramble and Lieberman 2004, Liebenberg 2006, Lieberman et al 2006, Lieberman and Bramble 2007, Lieberman et al., 2007). This paper offers an additional explanation for the selection of endurance running (perhaps already established as a critical behavior that filled several facets of Homo lifeways, to include subsistence). Running in Homo selected for a Paleolithic spirituality or "horizontal awareness" through a biologically-based, culturally reinforced biophilia that would have been enhanced through the existing neurobiological reward system. This awareness or Paleolithic high provided Homo with a means to reinforce the necessity of running for survival and situate them as part of a larger and dynamic environmental universe. This intimate environmental bond was facilitated and communicated through running. To borrow on a contemporary evolutionary psychology assessment, humans are wired, both in body and mind, to be runners, however, the ultra running movement today is only a pale reflection of what would have been an essential and reflective part of Homo lifeways.

Author Biographies

Robert R. Sands, Air University

Air Force Culture and Language Center Air University

Linda R. Sands, CH2M HILL

Project Scientist


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How to Cite

Sands, R. R., & Sands, L. R. (2010). Running Deep: Speculations on the Evolution of Running and Spirituality in the Genus Homo. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 3(4), 552–577.