Run with the Ancestors 10K

Race side by side with your ancestors in this epic journey through time!

Produced by the British Science Association, this 10k race will scale down one million years of Britain’s history into a fascinating and unique soundtrack. If you're looking for a shorter run, the 5k race will scale 500k years of the same story.

From the blustery climates of yesteryear dominated by Woolly Mammoths and sabre-toothed cats to the arrival of our first ancestors and their unique traditions, take a step back in time and meet your ancestors.

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Scene summaries may contain spoilers
Welcome to ancient Britain, 1 million years before the present day. The story of humanity began around seven million years ago, but we believe ancient humans set foot in Britain about 1 million years ago. Fossils show us that human movement has fluctuated along with changes in Earth's climate, with humans following the animals that are their food source. Lower sea levels than today mean that Britain is connected to the rest of Europe with a land bridge and allows early humans to travel here.
At 1.5km, you have arrived 850,000 years before the present day. You are in Happisburgh in Norfolk, which is blanketed in coniferous forest, and you can see what will eventually become the River Thames. The earliest evidence of human occupation of Britain is found here with footprints discovered in 2013. Skeletal remains from Spain suggest that the peoplemaking the footprints were probably Homo antecessor. We don't know why they ventured to Britain's cold climate from the warmth of southern Europe but we do know that they could have exploited a wide variety of food sources here.
You've run 3km and are now 700,000 years before the present day, in Pakefield, Sussex. The climate is now mediterranean and hippos and elephants can be found. Before 2005 when we found the Pakefield stone tools, we thought humans only arrived in Britain 500,000 years ago. But flint tools from this age show that humans lived here nearly 1 million years ago, but it is likely that they were few and far between, vand occupied the land for short periods. They would also have faced very real threats from predators.
5km and 500,000 years run! A new type of human has arrived and Britain is bustling. In Boxgrove, Sussex, stone tools and exotic animals bones found with the earliest known human emains in Britain, show that Homo heidelbergensis had higher intelligence than their predecessors. They made rudimentary tools and clothes which they needed to deal with the cold. But 50,000 years later, an ice age will blanket Britain and and humans will disappear for many millennia.
At 6km, it is now 400,000 years before the present day. Dolphins, rhinos, and tusked elephants can be found around the River Thames, as can Neanderthals. Skeletal remains show that Neanderthals were muscular and ate meat and vegetation. Their inner ear bones suggest they heard similar frequencies to modern humans which means they could have been talking to each other. They also used fire! The next 250,000 years see two cold periods, but also a warm interval where Neanderthals returned with more advanced stone tools.
At 7.5km, it is 235,000 years before the present day. Neanderthals have returned, and are using Levallois Stone Tools, allowing them to move further into Britain than ever before. A group of adults and children ended up in Pontnewydd Caves in Wales, showing that they were able to plan and prepare for long journies on foot.
At 8km, it is 180,000 years before the present. Britain is empty of humans again. A period of warming and sea level rise turned Britain into an island for the first time and cut it off from mainland Europe. Hippos and lions roam what will become London. Neanderthals were shorter and stockier than modern humans, suited for short bursts of energy. Modern humans are taller and better able to run long distances. Which is lucky because there's still 2km left to go!
At 8.5km, you're only 60,000 years before the present day! Sea levels have dropped, and Neandrthals have returned to Britain. Our ancestors crossed the plains of Doggerland following animals such as wooly mammoths, which they hunt for meat and fur. They have a unique way of carving stone tools not seen in the rest of Europe. This carving technique is seen at many sites across Britain, showing that Neanderthals were culturally connected. But it's time to move on to the rise of Homo Sapiens!
You've run 9km and are around 30,000 years before the present day. Homo Sapiens arrived in Britain about 10,000 years ago. You're witnessing a burial ceremony for a young man who died here. He's buried with grave gifts of mammoth ivory, and a mammoth skull is used as a grave marker. His remains will be rediscovered in the 19th century, showing evidence of the earliest signs of ceremonial burials. Artefacts such as bone flutes are created in Europe and have been found hundreds of miles from where they were made, showing that trade was important to Homo Sapiens. 15,000 years ago, humans returned to Britain, and artefacts show evidence of trade, as well as of our earliest relationship with dogs. Gough's Cave in Somerset shows a more grisly side to our ancestors - humans remains showing signs of cannibalism, and human skulls meticulously turned into skull bowls.
You've run 5km and you're back in the Holocene - the present day. In the past 11,000 years, humans have come to dominate the planet. The climate has governed where humans can live. Britain's pattern of warming and cooling saw humans thrive and then leave altogether. Humanity's recent advancements have led to unprcedented rises in global temperatures. What will this mean for the future of humans in Britain?


Cast listings may contain spoilers
Matt Wieteska
Sound Designer
Mark Pittam