Saturday, August 25, 2012

Marathon Running and the 50+ Year Old Heart

"There was no evidence of permanent heart damage from repeated marathon running in individuals over the age of 50".
Dr. Davinder Jassal, associate professor of medicine, radiology and physiology in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, principal investigator at St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre, primary author of The impact of repeated marathon running on cardiovascular function in the aging population published in The Journal of Cardiovascular MRI on August 20, 2012.

The right ventricle becomes enlarged and weakens over the course of a marathon.
It repairs itself within one week following the marathon. 

I am one of 25 runners (21 males and 4 females) that participated in this 2010 study. The volunteers are all healthy, non-smokers, and had completed at least three marathons in the previous two years leading up to the study. The report refers to us as "elite elderly marathoners".  I like the sound of elite marathoner, but my bubble quickly popped with the elderly modifier.  Kidding aside, this is heartening news (no pun intended) as my odometer creeps over to 56 next month or, if you prefer, if 50 is the new 30, I'll be 36 in a few short weeks.  

I blogged the 2010 experience here.  The study involved a series of tests including electrocardiograms, MRI's, blood samples,  cardiac tomography, and nutritional analysis. The tests were scheduled several weeks before the marathon, again immediately following the marathon (both at the finish line and then later in the day at the hospital), one week after the marathon, and finally a follow up six months after the marathon.  I can't recall precisely, but I believe we received a minimum of 3 MRI's, 3 electrocardiograms, and a number of blood samples were drawn. We were told that if an abnormality was detected they were duty bound to inform us, but otherwise the results of the testing was not shared with us.  

The exact same test was conducted on marathon runners in the 18 to 40 year old age group. I presume this was the control group to which they compared the results of the 50+ year old runners.  

The conclusions are summarized below:
  • Elite elderly marathoners over the age of 50 had a transient increase in blood markers and temporary swelling and weakness of the right side of the heart immediately following the 26.2 mile marathon. The good news is that all of the changes returned to normal one week later.
  • Studies on young endurance athletes (18-40 years of age) following marathon running have demonstrated evidence of temporary heart injury using blood markers and have linked these findings with a transient, yet reversible decrease in the ability of the right side of the heart to pump blood effectively. Both the blood markers and heart function returned to normal one week following the marathon. In other words, the same results as the 50+ year old group.
  • Repeated endurance stress does not seem to result in permanent myocardial injury in elderly marathoners.
  • The tests found no evidence of permanent heart damage, and the older runners recovered as quickly and fully as younger marathoners.
  • Dr. Jassal is quoted "What our study shows is that if you've trained well and you've done your homework in terms of keeping yourself hydrated, things will be OK."

The full report is posted in the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance and can be found here.

The CBC report, Older Runners Face No Greater Health Risk, is here.

The U of M media release, Study Finds Running Marathons Is Not Harmful To Older Adults,  is here.  

Weekend Warriors take note... It takes more than a healthy heart to run a marathon!  

To successfully complete a marathon you gotta log the miles and stick to the drill. You're looking at about 4 months of regimented, often boring, frequently lonely training. You need to run a minimum of four times a week. You need to run hills, cross train, do speed work, tempo runs, and one long run every week. You have to watch your diet, limit the trashy food and drink, monitor your weight, and run, run, run. You need the support of your partner and you need to talk to your children. You need to want it bad, really, really bad. There are no shortcuts.  No one can run a marathon unless you're mentally and physically prepared regardless of your excellent heart-health. If you do all this I guarantee you a rush that will last a lifetime. 

The choice is yours. You can seek truth, justice, wisdom, and the proper way to train for a marathon, or you can go the 99 cent burger route.

So friends, the next time that sedentary friend of yours warns you of the dangers of running marathons refer him to Dr. Jassal's report and invite him along on your next 20 miler. 

As my ultra-marathoner friend Melissa says, when will you run today?

It's a good day to be alive.

Mike :~)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Street Feet Run Well

Do your best; have fun.
Gerry Barrett,Street Feet Run Well motto 

Street Feet Run Well 
I dropped by my favourite running store this afternoon and had a pleasant chat with owner Erick Oland. It wasn't long into the conversation when Erick mentioned Street Feet Run Well, an organization that is dear to his and his wife Cheryl's heart, and now mine.  Street Feet Run Well supports women living in Winnipeg's North Point Douglas. 

This area of Winnipeg is similar to Vancouver's Lower East Side or Toronto's Jane and Finch region.  This is the area that polite society prefers to forgets. If we need to travel through this area we do so fast and with doors locked. Residents of North Point Douglas live on the margins of society and face daily obstacles that would would flatten most other citizens. They are resilient folk though, they may stumble but they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get right back to  the business of eking out a living for themselves and their families. 

Street Feet Run Well programming helps the women believe in themselves and believe in their potential. This is accomplished by good old fashioned encouragement and support.  The women walk their neighbourhood in groups led by Bridget Robinson. They walk to build strength and confidence. In time they shuffle their feet a little quicker. Then they run a few steps. Then they learn to run well. They are encouraged to do their best and have fun. They quicken their pace and become lighter in spirit. They move forward. 

The driving force behind Street Feet Run Well is Bridget Robinson. She the person who leads the women and offers encouragement and support along the way. Erick describes her as  "the most inspirational person I have ever met". 

As trust builds they laugh as they run, and chat and gossip. They learn to support one another and believe in their true worth. They become winded and flush in face, running does that eh? Their heart races and then calms. Unknown muscles ache. Blisters appear. They are alive. They are runners.

They run in shoes that are beaten and bruised. Shoes that are worn thread bare with the soul exposed. Sally Ann specials. Our throw-away shoes become their symbol of hope.

Street Feet Run Well offers the women two running session a week. They are challenged to attend eight sessions. Some attend eight  consecutive session, others take longer to log the eight. After their eighth session though, a transformation occurs, a magic moment if you prefer. 

There is a ceremony in which Erick attends with a van load of shiny brand new, colourful, high-end authentic running shoes. The shoes are provided free of charge by City Park Runners.The women giggle as Eric fits them carefully and analyzes their gait to find the very best shoe. A Cinderella moment if there ever was. There is great fanfare as the others look on and offer advice on colour and style. There is laughter and the room is warm with camaraderie. The walls radiate with positive energy. Erick beams and keeps his emotions in check. 

And the runner in perfectly fitted running shoes, how does she feel? I don't know, but I expect she feels pretty darn good. She feels valued and supported. She feels successful and strong. She belongs to a a most inclusive community, a community of runners, a community nourished by Street Feet Run Well.  We all want to belong, we all need to be part of a community. It's wired into our genetic code. Bridget Robinson helps build that community and Erick, he provides the badges of honor. 

I have registered for the first annual Pont Douglas 10-k Run (there is also a 5-k) . All proceeds directly support Street Feet Run Well programming. Here's their mission statement: 
Street Feet Run Well’s mission is to holistically promote physical and mental health in an inclusive, caring and supportive environment. The goals of the program are to help participants, who self-identify with challenges, to increase self-esteem and self-efficacy through walking or running with the intent that this extends to other areas in their lives. The program will strive to help each participant be the best walker or runner that they can be, while having fun in a social environment that emphasizes equality and is non-judgmental.
Street Feet Run Well has two partner resource centers: Canadian Centre for Refugee  Employment  and The North Point Douglas Women’s Centre. Click the links for their stories.  I hope you have the time to join the fun on Saturday, October 13. Click here to register. The Race Committee  need lots of volunteers so please, bring out the family. 

So friends, let's heed the Street Feet Run Well your best and have fun!

It's a good day to be alive.

Friday, August 3, 2012

One Skinny Canadian

Moonshine dreamtime
All I need is a goldmine
And true love
Just like sugar in my coffee

Eleni Mandell, Moon Glow Lamp Low, from the album Miracle of Five

I missed the registration deadline for the Twin Cities Marathon so I wrote the race director to inquire if there was room at the start line for one more runner, one more skinny Canadian... with a big heart... 140 pounds soaking wet.

To my delight the answer arrived the next day.

"Dear Mike" read the email from the race director, Catherine, "I just checked and yes indeed we do have just enough room for one more skinny Canadian at the start line." And with that, she provided me with a super secret code to over ride all the red print that declared ... registration is now closed ... we have reached our capacity... try again next year...

Thank you Catherine! You're the best.

So here I am, now training for a full dance on October 7. I had originally considered running Toronto on October 14, but Twin Cities is a preferred race. I ran Twin Cities in 2008 with my niece and it was the best of times. I blogged the experience here.  

My training is going well despite the heat. I ran 7 miles of hills the other day and 18 miles last Sunday. I'm training with an interesting group, some are training for Chicago, others Twin Cities, and others Crazy Horse in South Dakota. For some this will be their first marathon, for others it'll be number 35.  One runner is vegan, I'm vegetarian so we compare notes about nutrition and chit chat. It's all good the chatter, the goodwill, the caring for one another.  No injuries, energy level is up, feeling ok.

Twin Cities Marathon falls on Canada's Thanksgiving weekend so Jennifer and I will make a  little vacation of it. I have already booked the hotel ... 0.8 miles from the start line and about the same from the Walker Art Institute.... something for both of us.

I attended Art City's Van Launch Party last week on the roof top of the WAG. The van was designed by Netherlands' artist and personal friend of Wanda Koop, Olaf Mooij. Olaf also designed the iconic bicycle that sits on top of Art City on west Broadway. I thought you might enjoy some images of the unveiling. 

The excitement mounts...
Edward admires...
What the ... ?

The Art City Van... 1000 AMPs of pure positivity. Note the city scape design of the speaker arrangement.

It's a good day to be alive and running with a thousand amps of pure positivity!