Is Running Good for your brain?

runner on the mindGood for your head?

It became conventional wisdom a few years ago that was ‘good for your heart is good for your head.’ Many doctors had already been talking about the benefits of exercise for years but the brain conversation changed the conversation, because we could now do something for our brains! Marketers, like me definitely noticed, the same product began being offered as ‘brain healthy’ with very little proof. When all of this came out, I didn’t think much of it. It was good advice and I was already hooked on running, so seemed mostly like a reason to keep going. It also just made sense to me, what’s good for your heart is also good for your mind.

Is running good for brain?

Last month there was a study out of Finland trying to answer the question about what kind of exercise you should be doing for your brain health. After having rats do different types of activities, some lifted weight, others ran, and another were couch potatoes. The scientists tested all their brains and found some interesting results. They found that the brains of the rats who had run the farthest had more new neurons floating around their heads than either of the two other groups, these were adult rats. What this meant wasn’t exactly clear, but it was pretty safe to conclude that running had been good the rats. They didn’t find any of those new neurons in the weight lifting rats or the couch potatoes. They didn’t say that lifting weight was bad, but it didn’t have the same measurable improvement as running.

Running Further = Smarter?

Those who were doing the study were not willing to say you would definitely have the same affects in humans. But they did say there might be a similar mechanism for humans, though it’s too early to say. It’s good to point out that there has been quite few studies that have been done in rats and then found to not work in humans. Rats are mammals and have a lot in common with humans, but they are not exactly the same physically as us, so it can be hard since science can have a breakthrough in rats and not have it translate to humans at all.

It isn’t even remotely scientific, because it’s my body and I’m not a scientist, but I think we might have a similar biological process to the rats. Running is one of the best stress relieving activities I know about. It totally clears your head better than anything else and helps me focus. I’m not sure if it makes me smarter but it definitely can’t hurt the blood flow to the brain and maybe time will prove it grows brain cells, only time will tell.

Happy Running!

The Treadmill above them all

I have never been a huge fan of treadmills, but for a lot of people that’s how they run. Often you just don’t have a choice either because of you’re nursing an injury, or the temperature is extreme when you have time. Thinking about treadmills has got me wondering, where would be the most extreme place to use one? Antarctica? Mountain top? Well the most extreme actual place I’ve actually heard of, the space treadmill! Astronauts need to train a lot simply to keep muscle when they’re circling the earth, so a lot of them run in Space.

Space Treadmill

The most famous treadmill that I know, is part of the International Space Station (ISS) and where it was installed in 2009. Before it was installed they had a naming contest for the node that would be part of the station. Late night comedian  Steven Colbert heard about it and got his fans to help him win the contest. The node ended up being called Serenity like NASA originally wanted, but they ended up calling the treadmill – COLBERT, or  the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill.  Steven Colbert seemed happy to have his name in space and I’m sure only NASA knows how many times its circled the earth by now.

Running without Gravity?

I have to say my first thought is that it would be totally amazing to be in space! But if you’re up there for days, weeks, or even a year, you have to worry about the effect of zero gravity. Human beings are meant to live in gravity. How our bodies function and allows us to move around is because of gravity, so training on the treadmill is really important just to keep muscle mass and the skeleton strong. They simulate gravity by using a series of straps on the astronaut as they run and I would think after you’ve been floating around for a while it would be great change to have your feet on some kind of ground.

The treadmill has had a good use since it was put in space since a lot of astronauts are avid runners! Most recently, it was reported British Astronaut Tim Peake, will be running the London Marathon in space at the same time that the race goes off on Earth. It’s exciting to think someone will be running that far in Space! Awesome if he finishes because he’ll definitely be the first man to run a marathon in space! The problem is that just some reporters got inventive and said he would be the first person to run a marathon in space. The problem is it isn’t true. The first person, was Sunita Williams from Needham, MA, who completed the Boston Marathon back in 2007 in space. She even printed out a number to put on the space treadmill as she ran. It was a cool highlight of the race that year and from everything I’ve heard she’s kept running since then. She also appeared on the Colbert Report to talk about the space treadmill. It’d be cool to run in space and I think it would be only thing to keep me on a treadmill.

Happy Running!

7 Marathons 7 continents 7 days, whew!

I have to say I was surprised and excited to learn last year that someone from around Boston was going to attempt to run 7 Marathons in 7 days! Becca Pizzi from Belmont, MA is part of the 2016 World Marathon Challenge which is a 7 continent challenge, including Antarctica! From the numerous interviews I’ve read about her, from the Herald to People it sounds like she does a lot to prepare for her races and that she’s had a lot of practice. She’s done 45 marathons even before she even toeing the line this past Saturday. She was quoted as being “born to do this.” She makes me feel like a slouch, I’ve only ever run a marathon! Here is the schedule and her results as of my writing:

1st Marathon Saturday 1/23 Grand Total (GT) – 26.2 miles
The first marathon that this multinational squad attempted is on the Union Glacier on Antarctica. It would be neat just to go to Antarctica! It is summer down there which means the conditions were definitely colder than what we’ve had around Boston at 14ºF for the four lap course. Pizzi finished in 3 hrs 57 min 19 sec.

2nd Marathon Sunday 1/24 GT – 52.4 miles
The South American marathon was in Punta Arenas, Chile in the region famous for its scenery, Patagonia. It is a small city of 150,000 people at the southernmost tip of South America, making it the closest civilized place to Antarctica. Per World Marathon Challenge’s Facebook’s page it was a 4 loop course. Pizzi finished in a time of 3 hrs 44 min 18 sec.

3rd Marathon Monday 1/25 GT – 78.6 miles
The ‘local’ North America marathon was in Miami, FL. It was a 4 lap, point to point race along Miami’s famous South Beach in iconic Lummus Park. Running along the beach will definitely be a change from the snow of the Antarctica. Pizzi finished in a 3 hrs 41 min 20 sec hrs.

Casa de Campo Mapa
Casa de Campo, Madrid, Spain

4th Marathon Tuesday 1/26 GT – 104.8 miles
The European marathon is in Spain’s capital Madrid. It will probably be the highest course at 2100 ft of altitude. They will be doing a 10 loop course in Casa de Campo, one of the world’s largest municipal parks. (See Above map) It looks like they will be staying in the flatter part of the park, close to the ‘Lago’ (Lake). Pizzi finished in 3 hrs 48 min 19 sec and is leading the women’s field!

5th Marathon Wednesday 1/27 GT – 131 miles
The African marathon is in Marrakech, Morroco which is an old city with a large historic downtown. It will be a flat 4 lap course near downtown and the last time during the race, they will not be running on the beach. It will mostly like be pretty warm, dry and sunny. The city second highest of the trip on a flat plain at 1529 ft with the Atlas Mountains off in the distance. Pizzi finished in 3 hrs 50 min 47 sec.

6th Marathon Thursday 1/28 GT – 157.2 miles
The Asian marathon is in Dubai. The course is point to point along Dubai’s waterfront and it looks like you can see those man-made islands everyone talks about. It will definitely be one of the warmer places they’ve been so far with an average temperature of 75ºF, which is a winter temperature. It is a good time of year to be running in Dubai because the average temperature in May is 100ºF, never mind the summer months! Pizzi finished in 4 hrs 14 min 41 sec.

7th Marathon 1/29 Friday GT – 183.4
The Australian and final marathon is in Sydney. I think once I got here, I would be so happy provided you weren’t feeling too beat up at this stage. It looks like the route is a point to point course. That is one high mileage week!

Good luck Becca Pizzi & Happy Running!

World’s Longest Half marathon

Recently, in Bangkok, a bunch of runners gotten a little more than they bargained for when they set out to do a half marathon as part of the Bangkok Marathon. The race organizers appear to have added 6.5 kilometers or 4 miles, to the end of the race. It looks to be an honest mistake with a gate being left open. People headed the wrong direction when they were doing the course making it the world’s longest ‘half-marathon.’ It does look like some people, pardon the pun, took it in stride, while others when done, and finding about the additional distance were worried about their health.

I’ve been in quite a few races, not just in New England, where you felt like even before you crossed the starting line you knew the organizers didn’t know their course. Most often in my experience it’s usually cut off distance with a 5 kilometer course turned into 3 miles. It cuts off about 0.1 of a mile which will only cut off maybe 1-2 minutes for the average person but isn’t really a big deal for most people. The issue is if your race is at all choreographed, it messes with your rhythm and with the time you were trying to run. It isn’t easy to add distance, but most often I feel like it can really surprise people of their own capability.

I’m not a huge fan of funky distances, but it is better to be warned beforehand, like the Dreamfar 10k – 2015 I did at the beginning of this year. The course looped around Lake Massapoag in Sharon, MA and it was one of the more scenic courses I’ve ever done. With the lake on one side and the snow and ice on the trees on the other, it had a stark beauty I’ve rarely experienced; it was like running though a serene black and white photograph. Most of the course we did was flat, so what little ice was on the road didn’t really matter… until we got close to a fairly steep hill. The organizers were rightly worried about the competition accidentally entering a skiing stage. It ended up being closer to 5 miles than the 6.2 miles we originally set out to do. It was cold and I was happy to be back inside quicker than expected plus, it was only a mile. On race day funky distances are pain, but taking the long view, I feel like they usually play out in your favor; it would be cool to have been in the world’s longest half marathon.