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A Marathon-long Timeline of Human History


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Earlier this year, I made a timeline video of the history of the universe, where I set up 13,799 dominoes, with each of them representing a million years from the big bang to present day. In all that time, the last four dominoes represent all of human history.

I decided to make a follow up video, where I zoomed in on those last 4 million years, and made a timeline from when we were living in trees to modern day, with each centimetre representing one year. Since four million years is a long time, this timeline was the length of a full marathon: 42.2km.

Here is the video:

I know we’re our own hardest critics, but I have to say this project really didn’t go as I’d hoped. I trained for a marathon and planned to run it while I was in rural Chatham-Kent Ontario in September, since I would be able to film parts of it while running behind a car. In training for this, my friends kept asking me why I didn’t plan to film it in a ‘actual’ (ie. registered) marathon, and that’s because filming it would mean I’d be running behind a car, and you just can’t drive a car through a marathon. I decided on this route, which would allow me to film all of it on quiet and safe roads, and would let me start in a tree and finish at our family farm where I made the other timeline video.

marathon map

I was ready to run it, to film it, and to narrate it, and I was in Ontario in the middle of a bizarre autumn heatwave. As is the case for a lot of my projects, I had a number of time constraints, so I decided to go ahead and film it on the marathon course I’d planned, but would drive the long distances in between. That way, I could film all of it in the early morning before the heat came in, and make the video without getting heatstroke.

That said, I ran the marathon the next week (back in Vancouver) and since I’d memorized the script, I knew what was happening in human history along that run. I started my run back when our ancestors lived in trees, after 1hr of running, we’d discovered how to make stone tools. Another hour of running: better stone tools. Three hours of running: we discover fire. After 4hrs and 20 minutes, our species finally evolves. After 4hrs and 38minutes, and in just the last minute, we start farming, invent writing, and fly rockets to the moon.

This certainly put things into perspective for me, since it took me 49,000 steps to run that far, and in all of that time my entire lifetime is not even a full step, it’s just the length of a foot.


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