In It for the Long Run

The following is a guest post by Lara Szypszak, Reference Technician in the Prints & Photographs Division.

One of my favorite feelings is the wave of excitement and anxiety that washes over me as I join the crowds at the starting line of a race. There is something so special about joining a group of willing runners as we prepare to push ourselves and our bodies over many hills and miles.

Running is an industry of its own these days. Both the professional athlete and the average citizen can make their way to the starting line of a marathon that draws mammoth crowds and the attention of the world.  Families run together, school students compete against seasoned adults, and, as this picture from the CQ Roll Call Photograph Collection highlights, politicians run alongside members of the community.

Vice President Al Gore and others running in the Nike Capital Challenge race, Washington, D.C. Photo by Chris Martin, 1993 Sept. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.38853

Vice President Al Gore and others running in the Nike Capital Challenge race, Washington, D.C. Photo by Chris Martin, 1993 Sept. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.38853

The enjoyment generated in the spirit of competition has been captured in images over many decades, allowing us to observe the changes in outfit, the development of the professional sport, and the one thing that remains the same: the sheer joy of running.

Police Running Race. Detail of photo by Bain News Service, between 1910 and 1915. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.16437

Police Running Race. Detail of photo by Bain News Service, between 1910 and 1915. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.16437

Legend has it that the first marathon was staged to honor a Greek messenger who died after running from Marathon to Athens in order to deliver the much anticipated news of a defeat over Persian invaders in 490 B.C. While the Greeks made a tradition of running long before the appearance of spandex, competitive running largely came into its own as a popular hobby during the so-called “marathon craze” in the early twentieth century.  Record breaking times at the Boston Marathon in 1907 inspired all ages to take up running. The rivalry between top marathon runners Dorando Pietri of Italy and John Hayes of the United States at the 1908 London Olympics further fueled interest in the sport. The races drew large crowds, as seen in the 1909 photograph below.

Runners ready to start in Shrubb-Dorando Marathon Race. Photo by Bain News Service, 1909 April 3. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.03247

Runners ready to start in Shrubb-Dorando Marathon Race. Photo by Bain News Service, 1909 April 3. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.03247

Cartoons and drawings from the high energy period of marathon mania also depict the craze.

 Effect of the marathon craze. Drawing by Charles Dana Gibson, 1909? //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cai.2a12854

Effect of the marathon craze. Drawing by Charles Dana Gibson, 1909? //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cai.2a12854

 

The marathon mania. Cartoon by Louis M. Glackens, published 1909 January 20. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.26341

The marathon mania. Cartoon by Louis M. Glackens, published 1909 January 20. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.26341

Pictures show us the pleasure of running and can serve as inspiration to future generations of runners.

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