Run with the Ancestors 5K

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

Produced by the British Science Association, this 5k race will scale down 500,000 years of Britain’s history into a fascinating and unique soundtrack.

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! 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. Lower sea levels than today meant that Britain was connected to the rest of Europe with a land bridge and allowed early humans to travel there.
At 1km, you've reached 800,000 years before the present day. A new type of humans have arrived and Britain is bustling. In Boxgrove, Sussex, stone tools and exotic animals bones - found with the earliest known human remains in Britain - show that Homo heidelbergensis had higher intelligence than their predecessors. But 50,000 years later, an ice age will blanket Britain and and humans will disappear for many millennia.
At 2km, 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. The Neanderthals 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 2.5km, it is 250,000 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 3km it is 180,000 years before the present and, once again, there are no humans in Britain. 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 3.5 km, 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. They have a unique carving technique which 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 4km and are around 30,000 years before the present day. Homo Sapiens arrived in Britain about 10,000 years ago. You're witnessing a young man being 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 the earliest signs of ceremonial burials. Artefacts found hundreds of miles from where they were made show that trade was important to Homo Sapiens, and some remains in Somerset show signs of cannibalism!
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