Five years ago, I found myself in one of the flattest, hottest places in New Mexico — the high plains in the east of the state — watching grown men chase after antelope under the blazing noonday sun.
Not just any antelope, but the incredible pronghorn, which can run 60 miles per hour. The men, who wore colored bibs and running shoes, were top-tier marathoners; a few could run a 2:13. But they couldn’t come close to the antelope’s jogging speed. That was OK, though, according to the theory they were testing. “Persistence hunting,” according to Harvard human-evolutionary biology professor Daniel Lieberman, posits that running was the first human weapon and key to our survival. Our ancestors chased down their prey hundreds of thousands of years ago — long before weapons like the bow and arrow were invented — using our millions of cooling sweat glands and massive gluteus maximus muscle to eventually run down much faster animals lacking those specific physiological advantages. This theory explains why we run marathons. I was in New Mexico working on a documentary about this age-old pursuit, which just debuted online.
Fair Chase follows 10 modern-day persistence hunters from their modest homes and inspiring lives to the rural ranchland where they attempt to do what few of us will try: run down dinner. At the very least, the film will make you reconsider the evolutionary importance of your next jog.