Since I began running back and forth to elementary school when nobody else did, I’ve always felt a little different. That feeling continued throughout high school when instead of sneaking cigarettes, I was out running and getting mocked for doing so. Even in college when everybody was drinking themselves under the table, I ran. And—of course–continue to do so.
Still, I’m pretty much an average guy in most respects. Average height, maybe a little on the skinny side, but I’m your basic normal guy.
Funny thing is I don’t feel normal. Never have. Running always made me feel different—and it still does. But I like feeling different and it’s a feeling I can’t quite shake, even if I wanted.
I just run to a different drummer than the average guy and, because I do, feel very uncommon and detached. The common guy is still sound asleep when I’m out running. The common guy’s idea of fun is playing a video game, while mine is a long run. The common guy feasts on steak, burgers and ribs; I prefer pasta and salad. The common guy’s idea of sports is watching someone else do something on TV. Mine is running a race.
Even when it comes to races, most of us are decidedly average, finishing somewhere in the middle of the pack. I’m not fast, but I can outrun 99 percent of all Americans. Most people can barely drive 26 miles, but I can run that far. I’ll bet you can too. In that respect, by the very definition, we are exceptional human beings.
So we know that running makes us a bit different, but does it also truly make us better human beings?
I’m saying it does.
Here’s just some of the evidence:
- Runners are smarter longer. Several studies have shown that 40+ runners who have been exercising for 15 years or longer have sharper minds than non-exercisers of the same age and education levels. For reasons unclear to researchers, exercise slows down the gradual breakdown of the “white matter” in our brains which is an essential part of our nervous system and constitutes the communication system of our brain. As people age, the breakdown of this white matter is one of the main reasons people lose memory and motor control. But consistent exercise, including running, slows the degradation of the white matter. One theory is exercise stimulates the white matter and keeps it active, rather than losing it through disuse. Even if you are not an older runner, running makes you smarter because it increases blood flow to the brain.
- Runners are leaner. We burn a lot of calories while running (duh), but we also continue a caloric burn for an extended period after we stop. If you run at least five days a week for 30-60 minutes, you will reduce your body fat.
- Runners have strong hearts. Our bodies quickly adapt to running and one of the greatest changes is to our heart muscle. As we run, our heart becomes stronger and it increases its efficiency at pumping blood to the rest of our body. Cardiovascular endurance quickly improves as the heart doesn’t have to work as hard because it can pump the necessary blood with fewer beats per minute which, in turn, lowers our resting heart rate.
- Runners have better circulation. As we run, our heart beats faster to keep up with the demand for blood and the blood vessels expand to provide more blood to the working muscles. The more we run, the fitter we become which is a simple way to explain the increased efficiency in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This improved circulation reduces our risk of arterial sclerosis and the blockage of arterial pathways that can lead to strokes and heart attack.
- Runners have healthier joints. Every runner has heard time and time again from well-meaning friends and family that running is bad for your knees. Not true. Actually, it’s just the opposite. Running increases bone mass and stems age-related bone loss. Running not only doesn’t damage the knees and other joints; it reduces the risk of osteoarthritis.
- Runners live longer. Simply put, healthier people who eat right and exercise consistently can extend their lives anywhere from two to five years. Even smokers who quit and start exercising can add about four years to their lives.
- Runners are happier. We just are. On average, we’re more positive and optimistic than sedentary people. Every runner knows how even a 30-minute run can elevate our mood. Even a depressed person who turns to exercise will discover it’s an effective treatment. Also, many runners discover the “runner’s high” which is a very real, post-run flood of feel-good hormones.
So we might be different, but that’s a good thing. It’s what propels us forward every day. In our case, being different is a good thing.
O Our own 3M Half Marathon (January 24) has been named by Outside Magazine as one of the Top 10 iconic races in America. Right along with such classics as Chicago, Boston, New York City, Carlsbad, Peachtree and Bay to Breakers is 3M (the only half marathon listed). Not sure how they came up with this list, but two strange inclusions in Outside’s top 10 are Western States 100 Miler and the Badwater Ultra in Death Valley.
O Didn’t get a chance to get out to the ninth running of the TriRock Tri on Labor Day at Auditorium Shores, but major props to Andrea Fisher who won it for the third time. The 43-year-old masters swim and tri coach is training for the Ironman Worlds in Kona next month. The men’s division was won by 21-year-old Adam O’Connor who attends TCU. The sprint class was won by Colton Miller of Round Rock and Elizabeth Moorehead of Austin.
O It’s been a long season for miler Leonel Manzano. Certainly not a great year by his lofty standards, but Leo The Lion finished up the outdoor season with a last-place finish in Zagreb (Croatia) in a 1500 with a time of 3:40.35. He isn’t entered in the Ivo Van Damme meet in Brussels tomorrow night or the 5th Avenue Mile in New York.
O Another former UT miler—Kyle Merber—has had a busy week. First, he hosted a mile race—the Hoka One Mile—on Long Island on Wednesday night where he finished third in 3:58.38. Then, on Sunday, Merber will run in the 35th Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City (televised live on ESPN2 at noon).
O Former Austinite Sarah Periman (used to be Sarah Mark), who now lives in Houston, is also running the 5th Avenue Mile. She and her husband Brian (a high school track legend) are both running Fifth Avenue on Sunday, but in the citizens’ races.
O Titilating read of the year: Sports Illustrated is running an extensive excerpt this week from the forthcoming book by Olympian Suzy Hamilton (“Fast Girl”, out next week). It chronicles in astonishing detail what led to her work as a high priced “escort” in Las Vegas after retiring from track. One of the nicest and most successful women in track, Hamilton was always very open about her sexuality and used it to promote her career, posing for her own calendar in suggestive poses. But her revelations are still shocking. Go to this link to read the excerpt: http://www.si.com/more-sports/2015/09/09/suzy-favor-hamilton-interview-life-escort.
O At the USA 20-K Championships in New Haven on Monday, former Austinite Scott MacPherson and Allison Mendez both tuned up for their fall marathons. ScottyMac, who lives in Columbia, Missouri, finished 14th in 1:01:59 in New Haven, well behind the winning time of 59:24 by Jared Ward of Provo, Utah. Parker Stinson, the former Cedar Park HS and University of Oregon star, was also well back in 17th place in 1:02:44. (Stinson’s prepping for the Philly Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon next month.) Mendez, who is getting ready for her first marathon at Chicago in a month, finished in 1:12:22, six minutes back of the winning time (1:06:26) by Molly Huddle.
O Belated congrats to Hayley and Matthew Sorenson on the birth last week of their second son: Turner. I’m pretty sure he’ll be joining older brother Max in the jogging stroller in a few months.
O Also many congrats to former Austinites Patrick Evoe and his bride Megan O’Connor-Evoe on the early arrival last week in Boulder of their first child: Nathan Patrick Evoe.
O Lauren Reich has been hired as an assistant coach for the Trinity University men’s and women’s cross-country teams in San Anton. Reich, who works as a store manager for iRun, had previously worked as a volunteer assistant in 2010-11 at Trinity.
O Connor Hendrickson of UT was named Big 12 runner of the week after his victory at the Texas Invitational on Friday. Hendrickson, a sophomore from Southlake, won the Pan Am Juniors in the summer in the 10,000. Alexandria Cruz, a redshirt freshman at UT won the women’s race in her first race for Texas. UT’s next meet is the A&M Invitational in Aggieland on September 26.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Songs of Love”, by the immortal Patsy Cline. I can listen to “Crazy” every morning and never get bored with it.
(Headed out on back-to-back-to-back road trips and will only be back in town sporadically. “Heard” probably won’t reappear until October 8th.)
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