Skip to content

Retrospective: running, 40 years ago

  • by

Retrospective: running, 40 years ago

Hi 🙂

If today the practice of running rhymes with running, VMA, leggings and app, this has not always been the case. I recently wondered what running might have looked like 10, 20, 30, even 40 years ago…, before it became a real trend in France and around the world.

To find out, I met Dominique Chauvelier (nicknamed “Chauchau” by his sports colleagues), a 58-year-old French athlete and four-time French marathon champion (just that!). A runner since he was 13, he has known the crazy trend of jogging in the 70s and that of running more recentlyalways knowing how to adapt and encourage new followers of this sport, which continues to evolve.


When Dominique Chauvelier started running at the end of the 1960s, running was a thousand miles from what it is today. Of course, the equipment was not the same and the practitioners were not as numerous, but above all, this sport did not have the reputation it is currently given. “Someone who ran in the streets was considered crazy,” says Dominique. “At the time, running was practiced exclusively in clubs, but certainly not alone and on the asphalt.”


70’s: Jogging makes running accessible and trendy

Then, little by little, the practice became more democratic. In the 1970s, jogging arrived in France, straight from the United States, which seduces many followers including celebrities. Until then, running had been reserved for a handful of high-level sportsmen and women who, like Dominique, practiced athletics in clubs with rigor and passion, and took part in competitions.

With this new trend, running opens up to a wider audience, who wants to do sports simply, in town and in the countryside. “We started to see people running in the woods, in the streets, in the parks, at all hours of the day,” recalls Dominique.


This trend of jogging will spread widely and experience a real boom at the end of the 70s. Major events dedicated to running are born, especially in major capitals around the world. In 1976, the Paris marathon made its appearance. On that date, only a few hundred participants took the start, against more than 40,000 from all over the world today. For Dominique and other athletes, “in our eyes it was just a fad, on which we could surf”.

I invite you to watch this superb excerpt from the TF1 television news from 1979dedicated to jogging fashion. You will see without too much difficulty the evolution of the practice 😉

80’s: The massive arrival of sports brands

Then the first sports brands will appear. Nike launches across the Atlantic in 1972 but it will be necessary to wait until the 80s for the brand to be really known in France. Athletes like Dominique become the first Ambassadors of these emerging brands : “People came to see us during the championships to offer us to wear the Nike brand, when we had never heard of it.”

Nike, and the other brands of sportswear, have radically changed the equipment of runners: “Until then, we had always run with cotton t-shirts and tracksuits, suede and rubber shoes, and a kway in case of rain”, remembers Dominique. “We saw totally new equipment arriving for us, with innovative fabrics and bold designs. For example, I remember the very first tights for men, it was really strange to run for the first time with something so tight!”, he laughs.

Late 80’s / early 90’s: the first watches designed for running

Then it’s the turn of the technology to make its appearance and bring to the fore what is today the centerpiece of running: performance.

“At the time, the words running, jogging or VMA did not exist.”

We all closely monitor our performance, at each outing or at each competition, thanks to watches or applications. Once again, it was not in the habits of runners at the time. “We took our time on the track using a needle stopwatch that we held in our hand, and we noted our performances in a notebook placed on the finish line.”

In 1977, the Polar brand appeared and it launched in 1982 the Sport Tester PE2000, the first wireless heart rate monitorthen in 1984 the Sport Tester PE3000, which has the advantage of being able to be connected to a computer.


Around 2010: the arrival of running

If the border between jogging and running remains very superfluous, it does exist. Jogging consists of running at a moderate pace, jogging, while running integrates the notion of speed and performance. Jogging allows you to simply exert yourself while running is more about setting a time, beating a personal best.

Today’s runner has above all a Finisher profile, and less that of an athlete.”

It’s only been a few years since the phenomenon of running took precedence over jogging: the number of competitive foot races open to the general public has exploded (the French Athletics Federation has 800 labeled) and the number of participants with.


“A lot of runners regularly take part in competitions, some almost every week, notes Dominique. Races have become convivial moments, where people come together and celebrate a victory. Above all, they participate to have a good time and for the pleasure it gives them, and that’s good!”.

Observation: running was better before?

With so much evolution, one could imagine that the runners “of the beginning” would be nostalgic for the time when running had not become such a business. For Dominique, this is not the case: he sees this development as an opportunity, “a trend to surf on”.

As he explains, “I have adapted over the years to changes in running. Today, I use the innovative equipment offered by sports brands, I train, I advise and I continue to participate in races alongside new runners as a pacemaker.


And even if running has been completely transformed, Dominique remains optimistic about his future which, according to him, is mainly the rise of running among women (which he qualifies as “more serious, more rigorous, more measured” > +1 for Chauchau!) and in businesssimply to bring people together and federate.

Running therefore has a bright future ahead of it and that’s good for us! It would therefore be high time to stop talking about a “fad” since it has lasted for several decades. And maybe in 30 or 40 years, we will be able, in turn, to witness the evolution of this sport as Dominique did for us 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *