Friday, March 28, 2008
I read about ‘runners high’ from magazine articles. I don’t believe I ever experienced this ‘high’; usually described as a release of endorphins in the brain which brought about a state of euphoria - akin to being stoned. (Endorphins affect mood.) I ran seven marathons and I never felt like that. All I felt was exhaustion, as I clutched my heart and did everything I could to avoid puking, as I collapsed on the ground.
So here is the scoop on how the ‘runners high’ was finally measured.
A Dr. Hening Boecher of the University of Bonn discovered that PET scans used to measure pain, combined with new chemicals could be used to measure endorphin levels in a runners brain. The good doctor tested runners before a race and at the end and discovered elevated endorphin levels in the area of the brain associated with emotion. Dr. Boecher compared the ‘high’ to the feeling one gets from being in love.
Dr. Boecker and colleagues recruited 10 distance runners and told them they were studying opioid receptors in the brain. But the runners did not realize that the investigators were studying the release of endorphins and the runner’s high. The athletes had a PET scan before and after a two-hour run. They also took a standard psychological test that indicated their mood before and after running.
The data showed that, indeed, endorphins were produced during running and were attaching themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions, in particular the limbic and prefrontal areas.
The limbic and prefrontal areas, Dr. Boecker said, are activated when people are involved in romantic love affairs or, he said, “when you hear music that gives you a chill of euphoria, like Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.” The greater the euphoria the runners reported, the more endorphins in their brain. – New York Times, Thursday 03/27
Now I know that ‘runners high’ is not a myth, but is a real and measurable feeling, instead of puking or collapsing at the end of my race, I will dig deep in my prefrontal brain for those euphoric feelings of love.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
A mother’s love for her children is a powerful emotion; one that kept my 43-year-old sister Michelle clinging to life in Beaumount Hospital, Dublin, a year after the doctors said she should have died.
My sister was diagnosed with renal cancer in 2005 and was given six-months to live. For a year and a half she fought hard for every breath. Michelle just wanted to stay around to see her two young children grow up. She died in January 2007.
I spent the last week with my niece and nephew, Rachael (5) and Christopher (3) in your home. I wanted to write to you to let you know how they are getting on. I know you were worried about them before you passed on last year - so here is the latest. Rachael will be five next week and we're having a big birthday party for her and her friends. Can you believe it? She goes to the infant's school in Marino now, where you and me went as kids. You would tear up just to see her in her green uniform and tie, all grown up at five. She is the cutest five-year old you have ever seen. She is a real 'girly' girl - she loves her Barbie's and boy does she have an imagination! Rachael plays 'Barbie’s' andChristopher and I end up playing some minor role in her sitting-room floor dramas. You would get a laugh to see your 42-year old brother lying on your sitting room floor playing 'Barbie's, petrified to call a doll by the wrong name in case I get a scowl from Rachael that would make a CEO flinch.
You could not have chosen a better husband or father to the kids thanRichard. He is the most involved and loving parent I have witnessed. The kids adore him and he them - but you knew that. Every morning, I wake-up to the sound of the kid's laughter, as they jump and roll around with Richard in your old bed. He gets as much out of it as they do. I swear!'
Mommy' Richard, that is what I call him - is just as good when it comes time to kiss those 'booboos' better after a slip or fall. Recently, Rachael got a cold, Richard nursed her back to health with all the love and caring our mom gave us to us. He was there at every turn to sooth and to calm her. God, you would have been so proud Michelle.
He cooks healthy meals as per your instructions and he's a good cook at that. I must apologize up front because I occasionally slip the kids sweets. What are uncles for? Now, to the living terror, Christopher; Michelle he's crazy. He is a three-year-old energy bunny. He keeps going and going and going. Remind me to cut down on his sweet allowance! Christopher flies around the house pretending to be a cross between a power ranger and a ninja turtle. He loves his 'Morphin - Power Ranger', the one I got him for Christmas. He takes him everywhere, even out to Tescos.
But mind me Michelle, you cannot take your eyes off Christopher for a minute, otherwise he's off to the races. Speaking of eyes - he still has those bright blue buttons you hoped he'd never lose. He loves his crèche and when I picked him up the other day, his teacher told me he gets along famously with all the other kids. You can relax; it doesn't look like he is going to be the shy and retiring kind! Rachael and Christopher still ask about you in heaven, not as often though. I think you'll agree that is a good thing. Occasionally, Rachael asks me what it was like being your brother. I talk about you until she is bored. Anyway, I must dash. I can hear Christopher calling me, another power ranger stuck between two chairs! You know how it is. I'll keep in touch.
P.S. You did great - no need to worry.