Last night, under our bright BEAVER Moon of early November, I thought about ultra-distance running, and of course, reflected on inflammation and oxidative free radicals generated during LONG hard runs – like marathons and ultra events.
[I read an article about this 2017 NYC Marathon, after this week’s senseless terrorist event on a Manhattan bike path. Peggy Noonan wrote far more eloquently about relief than I ever will about this “Street” event and New Yorkers’ resolve in Saturday’s edition].
Back to celebrating and reflecting on cardiovascular fitness and a paradox… Today, I extend my heartiest “WELL DONE” to Shalane Flanagan for her historic win in the NYC Marathon today. Who suggested that American women can’t run marathons really fast? This blog’s title, “this is for Meb”, came from today’s online NYTimes.
This American immigrant, Meb Keflezighi, is the lone person in history to win: a. an Olympic medal in the marathon (Athens, 2004), b. the NYC Marathon (2009), and c. the Boston Strong Marathon (2013). He has reportedly retired after crossing the finish line (then briefly collapsing) today in Central Park. – We San Diegans are proud to claim Meb and his family as local heroes.
Is 26 elite marathons a “stop now” signal? It was for Meb today. Shalane may also step back from marathoning at the young age of 36 (by my standards). Burnout? Empty tank?
This finish line image of Shalane as victor (in ~ 2:26!):
shows as a very low body fat athlete – fer sure. Yet even this lean, unworldly athletic “freak of nature” gets inflammation. And, she has a higher than average chance of getting sick this week because her immune system is challenged in what this article labels “the elite athlete’s paradox”
“Marathon running can also lead to the production of too much cortisol,” Viana says. “Like Interleukin-10, this can suppress the immune system, but there’s evidence you can blunt its effects by making sure you maintain your carbohydrate levels as much as possible during and after exercise. But these things are also related to psychological stress – you have to try to keep that to a minimum and make sure you get adequate sleep as the circadian rhythms can have a big effect on your immune response.”
On a personal note – from my own Clydesdale experiences, marathons are one heck of a way to burn a pound of body fat – yup – 1 POUND average… We ran them (in my day) because Jim Fixx wrote THE COMPLETE BOOK OF RUNNING in 1977. After Jim died on a solitary Vermont jog at age 52, a clarity light bulb clicked – NATURE and NURTURE are important to longevity and wellness!
Quoting Dr. Gabe Mirkin, an associate of Fixx’s),
* Fixx had a horrible family history of heart disease; his father had a heart attack at age 35 and died of one at age 43
* Fixx had been a heavy smoker
* He was under terrible stress from a second divorce
* Even though he had lost 70 pounds, he did not have a healthful diet.
All the miles logged obviously weren’t enough to get Jim to his golden years…
Right you are…I wondered in words from NYC finish lines, to tragic bike paths, to my early (happy days) of 42KM events, to inflammation, to NATURE and NURTURE.
Too much of a good thing, too often, is NOT wonderful (sorry Mae West) by my estimation, study and lessons learned.
Too much inflammation; from one’s diet elements, oxidative free radicals from intense exercise, or stresses of daily life can be tragically BAD. It Depends.
How I miss my runner’s highs, since I hung up my Adidas Marathon Trainers and singlets, 15 years ago due after my spinal fusion. Now, and how I try to watch my indicators for inflammation / suppression of my immune system:
higher than normal resting heart rate,
sniffles as onset of colds, or worse 🙁
grumpiness from over-training,
“low fuel tank” in hard workouts, etc.
Help your immune system by keeping psychological stress in check (ha!). And monitor, in your own ways, for evidence of suppressed immune systems / heightened inflammation (cortisol) after runner’s highs.
Best of luck!