Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This is your brain on running

Running for me has always been as much about mental health as physical health. It clears my mind, calms me down (after the fact) and gives me a lot of time to put my brain in neutral without most of the interruptions of the day-to-day world – phone calls, e-mail, necessary errands, etc. More than once while running, an answer to a difficult problem has just popped into my head.

I don’t usually run with an iPod or portable radio like many people do. I prefer to run without a soundtrack. I run a lot on streets and roads without sidewalks, and I like to be able to hear the cars coming toward me, especially the ones coming up behind me.

For the most part, I generally prefer to run alone rather than with other people. I find that other people like to talk when they run. I’d rather save my breath for survival.

I clearly remember how I got started running. This was some years before running caught on and became a popular sport for the masses. A friend and neighbor, Royce Hough, said one day, “We ought to run.”

“What? Run where?” I asked in all innocence.

“I don’t know, maybe around the block for starters.” He had done some research and found out – duh – that running is good for your health.

That first attempt to run around the block didn’t go so well. Our block had a hill on two sides. I made it down the first side but not up side 3.

We stuck with it, though, and pretty soon we moved to a nearby park which had two softball fields adjacent to each other. Once around both of them was about a quarter mile, as I recall. My first running shoes were Marine combat boots. They were the only shoes I’d done much running in before.

After about a year I bought my first pair of Adidas. Big improvement. I felt like Fred Astaire. OK, I felt like Fred Astaire looked. There the resemblance ended.

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