CUP Undergraduate Research

Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2016

Document Type



College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences



Degree Name

History, BA

First Advisor

Dr. Gerd Horten


Endurance running is a unique niche of American culture, with its own components and history. It has significantly increased in participation over the last half century, which is what sparked my curiosity and interest. I investigate the history of endurance running through three chapters. In order for the reader to get acquainted with the sport and running community, I first focus on the history of three races. The first is the Boston Marathon due to its importance of being the first endurance running contest of the last century that continues to capture the minds and hearts of endurance runners. The second race I discuss is the New York Marathon, the marathon with the highest participation in the world. The New York Marathon arose during the running boom of the 1970s. Thanks to market-savvy people like Fred Lebow, this race merged passion with finances. The third race analyzed in this thesis is the Western States Endurance Run. This 100-mile race through Northern California was one of the first ultra-marathon races and continues to draw many long-distance runners from around the world. After discussing these histories, I next analyze how humans have been able to accomplish such feats of endurance by looking into the developments of nutrition, the integration of science, and the growth of medical knowledge. Finally, I describe the history of endurance running’s greatest tool, the running shoe, and argue that it is through the rise of athletic shoe companies that money entered the sport. This dramatically altered the sport through promotions, sponsorships, and research as well as through a wider inclusion of runners. Endurance running continues to fascinate millions and continually expands the limits of what dedicated human beings can accomplish.

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History Commons