Running is a primal action that humans have been doing from the moment they first set foot on this planet, the act of running played an integral part in human survival and growth, however the concept of running has evolved quite a bit for us over the years. It is uncertain that exactly when did humans start considering running to be a sport, there are various accounts of ancient foot races throughout the world, but most believe that the act of running was turned into a proper sport by the British.
The British have always had a thing for gambling and betting, this love for betting currency and other valuables creeped into running sports as well around the 18th century in England. For 18th England, running was a fun pass time activity, a competitive sport and even a measure of the law. There are various accounts of how the common people would resort to foot races for all kinds of purposes, one of the most common being bets.
Competitors would bet against one another and then put all of their efforts into outracing one another and the winning party would go back home with their winnings. In order to keep things fair, a trusted third party (usually a crowd of spectators) would watch the entire race, at first the crowd’s only purpose was to watch and have fun, but over time, business minded individuals would come up with ways of making money through watching and overseeing races between two competitors.
There is also an account that provides evidence of how the British resorted to a foot race to clear out a legal dispute in the 18th century, where two individuals; Thomas Lynn and Thomas Longbottom had a dispute over one party owning money to the other. Both the men ended up deciding to settle the legal issue by wagering on a third party’s ability to cover a certain distance in a certain amount of time. This verbal contract ended up turning into a full blown court case when the results of the race led to further dispute between the two parties.
Longbottom’s (who lost the wager) lawyers argued that the runner who had lost, did so because of the fact that he was not made aware of what was at stake, this led to the court ruling in Longbottom’s favour and also laid an example for future foot race wagers.
The act of running for making money, amusement or both also found its way into America around the same time in August of 1856 there was news that a man named Jon Stenton Jr. was planning on covering 60 miles in 12 hours on foot, six days in a row. With $500 at stake, a massive crowd was drawn to the spectacle for which admission fees were charged as well.
Running has been a big part of human history, and even today people place bets of all kinds on marathons, sprints and races.