A blog by runners. For runners.

Runner’s column: think inside the box

Running is emotional, spiritual, physiological, and ideological. It's a rule ridden sport that offers endless opportunities inside the box.On the last day of class, my linguistics professor proudly stated his farewell address. It was a hot and sticky afternoon in mid July. We were young twenty somethings looking forward to and secretly fearing our student teaching placements. He delivered his words with grace.

“You are now guardians of the English language, gatekeepers responsible for maintaining the integrity and strength of each word. DON’T F*** IT UP!

Yikes.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a respect for language. It’s a vehicle for our thoughts, ideas, emotions. But I don’t think this vehicle should be bound to the road any more than a fish is should be bound to water. Language changes. Evolves. And the great keeper of our words, the sacred dictionary, changes too.

Literal = figurative. Why not? A fish with warm blood? Bon Appétit!

I invite this colloquial seepage, these evolutionary adaptations because they’re evidence of movement and change.

Sharks need movement to breathe. We need movement to live.

The sport of running, on the other hand, does not invite such change. While it’s been infused with color, music, and herculean obstacles in the last decade, it’s remained a strict, unforgiving, rule bound sport. Hiccup at the starting line? NO SOUP FOR YOU! Disqualified! See you next time.

But maybe that’s a good thing.

The track (or any certified course for that matter) is the unequivocal leveler and measure of fitness, strength, and progress.

What time you run on any given day can be measured and graded against performances from world class athletes and local legends.

And within this formulaic, scientific, rule-orientated “box,” we can be our most creative, free, and happy selves.

Seemingly everyone who’s made it past the breakers, i.e., stuck with running long enough to feel a modest level of fitness, has experienced a “runner’s high.” But In 2008, the University of Bonn and Technische Universität München conducted a study to confirm this widely believed phenomenon. By injecting radioactive dye into select parts of the brain, they were able to see the actual areas affected post exercise.

“It’s interesting to see that the affected brain areas were preferentially located in prefrontal and limbic brain regions which are known to play a key role in emotional processing,” says Professor Henning Boecker, research coordinator at TUM.

While the sport of running does not invite change, it inspires it. Running offers a creative outlet, a cognitive boost, mental clarity, pyschic healing. In fact, I wrote most of this article with both feet off the ground, somewhere between mile 6 and 8 of my latest run.

It’s no surprise that many of our greatest innovators, educators, and leaders carve time out of their days to run. From rock gods like Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to culinary wizards like Bobby Flay; from comics like Rob Delaney to children’s authors like Jan Brett. Take a look at this list of celebrities who have finished last year’s Boston Marathon.

Running is emotional, spiritual, physiological, and ideological. It’s a rule ridden sport that offers endless opportunities inside the box.

Written by Stephen Marcin.