Friday, September 7, 2012

Running into luck

That's me on the left running with Nick on the best beach in Oregon
It was a short run—only two miles—but it still ranks among the best in my life. Nick and I laced ‘em up yesterday and ran through the mid-day fog on the beach at Bayshore, one month and a day after my brain surgery.  The simple joy of speeding through time and space is possible again for a few days, at least. Hallelujah!

My legs have definitely deconditioned but I’d put my cardio fitness up against my 22-year-old son’s any day. I wasn’t at all winded by our jaunt. Running on a sandy beach seemed like a good place to start my comeback since I couldn’t really hurt myself if I stumbled and fell. I got out again this morning for a brisk three-mile walk before returning to Corvallis and its infernal heat.
I’d like to enter the Fall Festival 10k on the 24th, but that depends on how I’m doing after my first week of whole-brain radiation. Physical fatigue and nausea are common side-effects of this therapy so I’m bracing myself. I also figure that however crappy I might feel on race day it could hardly be worse than the final miles of a marathon, which I’ve suffered through a few times. On that encouraging note, does anyone care to join me for the 10k?

The healing process of the last month has been amazing to behold, most especially the innate neuroplasticity of my brain. Retained knowledge that got scrambled by my trauma has been reorganized and is mostly available to me again. As new neurons have come on line my muddied thinking has slowly clarified. Exercise accelerates this process, which is why I’ve been speed-walking for the last two weeks and am now running again.

An article in “Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair” notes that regular exercise during recovery from a brain injury enhances tissue repair. It also increases learning and memory. These exercise-induced changes do more than just rebuild neural tissue; they also protect my brain from future injury and help fight the aging process. That's a great argument for why everyone should get out and get moving.
Running is for me both a gift and a privilege. It’s always made me feel more alive, but never more than at this very moment. I’m a lucky guy to have been a runner before being clobbered by a brain met and even luckier to be one again.

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