c. 1300, "messenger on foot," agent noun from run (v.). The meaning "one who runs, a racer" is from early 14c.
With many technical senses. The meaning "smuggler, one who risks or evades dangers, impediments, or legal restrictions" is by 1721; the sense of "police officer" is from 1771. The botanical meaning "rooting stem of a plant" is from 1660s. The sense of "embroidered cloth for a table" is from 1888. In baseball, "a base-runner," by 1845.
also frontrunner, of political candidates, 1908, American English, a metaphor from horse racing (where it is used by 1901 of a horse that runs best while in the lead).
late Old English þræl "bondman, serf, slave," from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse þræll "slave, servant," figuratively "wretch, scoundrel," probably from Proto-Germanic *thrakhilaz, literally "runner," from root *threh- "to run" (source also of Old High German dregil "servant," properly "runner;" Old English þrægan, Gothic þragjan "to run"). Meaning "condition of servitude" is from early 14c.
"type of grallatorial bird with a long, slender, curved bill," mid-14c., curlu, from Old French courlieu (13c., Modern French courlis), said to be imitative of the bird's cry but apparently assimilated with corliu "runner, messenger," from corre "to run," (from Latin currere "to run, move quickly," from PIE root *kers- "to run"). The bird is a good runner. In Middle English the word sometimes also meant "quail," especially in Bible translations.
"errand-runner," 1956, American English coinage from verbal phrase go for (coffee, spare parts, etc.), with a pun on gopher. Gopher also was late 19c. slang for a young thief, especially one who breaks in through small openings.