Both men and women of Bible times wore outer robes or cloaks that extended almost to the feet (see note on Gen 37:3; Deu 22:5; and 1 Sam 19:24). These loose-fitting gowns were held tight against the body by a belt or sash (generally referred to as a “girdle” by the King James Version) around the person’s waist.
If a person needed to run or do strenuous work, he would tuck the bottom part of his robe into the belt or sash. This gave him greater freedom of movement.
This practice is described by the King James Version-as in Elijah’s case-as “girding up one’s loins.” This custom is sometimes referred to in the Bible in a figurative sense to denote strength and determination (Job 40:7; Ps 65:6; 93:1).
Running in front of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the city of Jezreel was Elijah’s way of expressing respect for the king. The prophet did not agree with Ahab’s policy of promoting Baal worship throughout Israel (1 Kings 18:17-18). But he did have respect for the office of the king and Ahab’s authority.
The practice of running in front of the chariots of king’s and other dignitaries is also referred to in 1 Samuel 8:11; 2 Samuel 15:1 and 1 Kings 1:5.