Run For The Dope! Go Granny!

Got your attention?

I knew this title would grab your attention.  No I a not taking any illicit drugs or dope.  Never personally cared about any. There are other ways I get my high such as by dancing and running.  Let me give you an example of how high the simple activity of dancing gets me.   I once attended one of my cousins New Years Eve party here in Miami and I danced all night from 11pm to 8am the next morning.   After I got home, I realized that my toes were numb.   And they were for days!  I was having so much fun that I forgot I was supposed to have regular sensation in my feet.  Thank goodness they moved well in sync to the jamming island beats played that night.

Running to me is a dope.  As I explained in an earlier post, when you run your hypothalamus  and pituitary secrete a morphine-like substance called endorphins, one of the chemical secreted, during strenuous exercise to help get you over that hump when you are taping or pushing your physical limits.  These opioid peptides (narcotic-like substance) function as neurotransmitters and helps give one the high they experience during exercise and other activities.  Runners call it “runner’s high.”

(Image of Cannabis) Not a good drawing artist, but I tried!

And as of last month, April 2012, a research came out from the University of Arizona and was published in the Journal Of Experimental Biology that another biological narcotic-like substance called (are you ready?) endoCANNABInoid may also contribute to the runner’s high. Okay, you may put that cannabis (weed, marijuana, joint) down now and start running for joy, euphoria, and relaxation.  I imagine this research with endocannabinoid could spark a mass sprint of folks to their nearby running store seeking running gear (If you’re a nurse, please consider my RunningNurse t-shirt).  People need some relief in this stressful economy, don’t you know?  Running offers just that.

For all of you who think you are too old to get downright doped and high by running, check out the story of this retired ER nurse who ran many marathons and ultra-marathons races around the globe, even up in her 80′s.  Helen Klein, ultra-marathoner started at age 50 when her husband encouraged her to run a 10 miles race in 1978.  In case you don’t know, a ultramarathoner is someone who runs marathons that are over 26.1 miles, the most common ones being a 50 K (31.069 mi), 100 K (62.137 mi), 50 miles (80.467 km) and 100 miles (160.9 km).

Free Google image. Thanks Google!

Because of her tenacity in running and the record she’s set in her age group, Mrs. Klein has been inducted into the USA Track & Field (USATF) Hall of Fame.  By the time this retired running nurse reached her 80′s she had completed a total of 100 marathons and 140 ultramarathons.  Mrs. Klein continued running past her 80th birthday in fitness and health.  Incredible! Now you were saying?  You can’t do what?

I am distressed at the thought of even consider this lady a granny.  I have a bad habit of carry this picture of a granny as someone who normally sits in her rocking chair, about the age of 70, waiting for the rapture.  Oftentimes folks in their 60s, start giving up the ghost.  Sometimes well before this age many individuals put away their suitcase of adventure and fun and spend much of their time in front of the television or traveling between the doctor’s office, hospital, nursing home, and such.

Many elderly people become estranged from life and living by limiting physical and social activities as they grow older.  But not Helen Klein. She seems to be inspired by healthy living, having a purpose, and pushing her boundaries.  This outstanding athlete (oldest person completing a 100 mile run) has been so influential that a popular ulltamarathon was named after her, the yearly Helen Klein Ultra Classics.

Helen Klein you’ve not only broken record in many of your races, you’ve also broken my perception of what it is to age well, in fitness (check out her stats).  I want to live to be 103, really, so you are a great role model for me.  And many.  You’ve certainly re-defined what it means to age in health, beauty, and with grace.  Thanks for showing us that we can become something larger than the limitations we oftentimes set for ourselves.  Helen was quoted as defining her creed as “Disciplined, determined, dedicated.”  She also said also prides herself in finishing what she has started.

If you think Helen is a tough cookie, here is a guy in his 90′s, Francis Albaugh, another ultrarunner, started running at age 57 and is still running to this day, according to the The Meadeville Tribune.  You remember that old cliche: age is nothing but a number.  Well, it seems to be true for these two athletes.  Why not for you?  Running helps you to feel and look younger.  Go for it!

Today, I started my run at 10:15.   I ran 13.1 miles up Miramar Parkway, all the way to Highway 75, and back.  A few people cheered me on as they drove by: cops, road servicemen, motorists, a man on a motorcycle bike, and a little girl who tried to race me when I was almost at the end of my row. The sun was scorching, and my leg muscles ached like they were falling off about mile 10, but I was not running to break a personal record. Not in the oven I found myself.  I just wanted to finish.  I found it strange that a noisy raven bird started circling around me and followed me for about half a block, like he was cheering me on.  Thank goodness he did.  At about that time (4 miles to the end) I really wanted to abort the half marathon, but then I thought, if Helen Klein run a 100 miles run, certainly I could finish a measly 13.1 miles run.  So, I ran to a nearby gasoline station and bought me a bottle of water, and an electrolyte replacement drink (0n the clock).  I continued on my way, and finished my run in 2:39:16 in that sweltering heat.  Yes, I ran like a roughed-up granny!

OYE!  It’s never too late to start running, but please consult your primary provider first before attempting any new physical activity.  Also, you may want to consult with a registered dietitian and a trainer to help get you into shape, let’s say, especially if you are dragging an excess amount of weight.  Just think how good running can make you feel.

If you are a nurse, and would like share with us your story of your  as a runner, please feel free to submit your post and pictures to ruth@runningnurse.com.  It would be good hearing from you!