The Folly Beach Half Marathon!

My wonderful photographer and cheerleader, Margaret Shull, sent me the pictures from my second half marathon, so now I can finally tell you all about it!

I arrived on Folly Beach that Saturday morning and the weather was warm and muggy, not my favorite running weather; while cold weather would have been favorable, I overlooked that and tried to maintain a positive attitude. The roads on Folly Beach were not closed to traffic and bikers, so runners were advised to “run defensively” and beware of traffic; this was certainly not what I was used to and would be an added challenge on the course. Not only would I have to focus on completing the run, but I would also have to make sure not to get hit by a car. I did not think that the course itself was laid out in the best way either. We ran in a straight direction around the same ten blocks for almost the whole race, which in a runner’s perspective is not interesting. I prefer when a course never passes one spot more than twice to keep the surroundings different for the whole course; this also prevents runners seeing those runners who were miles ahead of them and very close to finishing the race.

Furthermore, I did not think that the people running the water stations were very enthusiastic about volunteering and did not cheer on any of the runners, which was very discouraging. I was so thankful that my mom came to cheer me on and encourage me on such a difficult course. Also, two of my friends came to see me come in at the finish line - a nice surprise! While I sound pessimistic about second half marathon, I still would love to run another one and still encourage others to start running half marathons, just making sure to pick a larger and more organized run!

My First Half Marathon!

In January, I ran the Charleston Half-Marathon; it was so much fun! It was incredibly cold, but I bundled up in layers and lined up at the start. I decided to run at my own comfortable pace, instead of looking at my watch to keep up with a certain time.  Although it was exhausting and I thought I would die around mile 8, I truly experienced the runner’s high that motivated me to continue. I was able to finish the race in less than two and a half hours, which was the time I had set for my goal. When I finally crossed the finish line, it was a reward for all the time and effort I had put into my training. While my time was certainly not the fastest, my goal was just to finish and have fun.

While the race was physically demanding, there really was only one other obstacle that I had to overcome during the race. The race was organized so well, but they ran out of cups at the water stations. Not to worry, I did what I had to do to stay hydrated! Instead of running seven more miles without any water, I picked up a used cup off the group (yikes!) and filled it with Gatorade and kept going. Yes, looking back, it probably wasn’t the best decision, and I could have gotten some weird virus or disease – at least I didn’t get dehydrated! 

Have you ever been told that exercise enhances brain function and actually makes you smarter? Well, it is true…and Japanese researchers have just discovered the reason why. For many years, scientists thought that the brain subsisted only on glucose (blood sugar) which was absorbed from the bloodstream.

Ten years ago, it was discovered that the brain is fueled by glycogen that is stored in small amounts by astrocytes, the cells that support the neurons in the brain. But while scientists knew that the brain had these energy stores, they had been unable to study when the brain’s stored energy was being used in actual live conditions because the brain metabolizes the glycogen very quickly and it is gone before it can be measured. 

Using their glycogen detection method on rats in a lab, the Japanese researchers discovered that prolonged exercise significantly lowered the brain’s stores of energy. These losses were especially noticeable in certain areas of the brain, like the frontal cortex and the hippocampus, that are involved in thinking and memory, as well as in the mechanics of moving. 

Soon they discovered even more fascinating results: after the single session on the treadmill, the animals were allowed to rest and feed, and then their brain glycogen levels were studied. The food had gone to their heads, and brain glycogen levels had soared past the levels that were measured before exercise, increasing by as much as a 60 percent in the frontal cortex and hippocampus and slightly less in other parts of the brain. The astrocytes had “overcompensated,” resulting in brain carbo-loading. These levels dropped back to normal in 24 hours, but if the rats exercised every day, their baseline brain glycogen levels were significantly higher than those of the sedentary rats. 

These findings are essential in understanding exercise-enhanced cognitive function. As a result, Dr. Soya says, “it is tempting to suggest that increased storage and utility of brain glycogen in the cortex and hippocampus might be involved in the development” of a better, sharper brain.

After you go to your daily spinning or yoga class, make sure to drink or eat a carb-rich snack, such as a banana or glass of chocolate milk, in order to enhance your brain function even more!

February is American Heart Month! Did you know that heart attacks are as common in men as they are in women? Women, especially those with stressful jobs and school work, need to take precautions to prevent a heart attack by having a healthy lifestyle. Make sure to eat healthy (lots of fruit and veggies!), refrain from smoking, and EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE!

Watch this little video from the American Heart Association with Elizabeth Banks to find out more!

Very true…see previous posts to find out how exercise makes you happy!

Very true…see previous posts to find out how exercise makes you happy!