Marathons and Memory – A study…

Yesterday I was sent an email which pointed me in the direction of a study which was done on the effects marathon running has on memory.  I was rather intrigued, especially since I have experience being a lab rat for running research.

A short excerpt from the result of this study appears below for those of you who don’t want to read the whole thing:

Indeed, cortisol levels recorded 30 min after completion of a marathon rival those reported in military training and interrogation (Taylor et al., 2007), rape victims being treated acutely (Resnick, Yehuda, Pitman, & Foy, 1995), severe burn injury patients (Norbury, Herndon, Branski, Chinkes, & Jeschke, 2008), and first-time parachute jumpers (Aloe et al., 1994).

The study showed a significant decrease in explicit memory which deals with the recollection of facts, BUT an increase in implicit memory which is mainly unconscious and basically functions off of experience.

This made me put my running brain into action and have a think about this because this is a pretty profound fining (in my mind anyway).   I know that I feel stupid after a race and I’ve always put it  down partly to exhaustion and partly to the fact that on these long races, I’m running for the most of the way in a meditative state.

Now for those of you who don’t know anything about meditation, here is the Wikipedia definition.   I have been practising various forms of meditation for a few years now and nothing gets me on that meditative level as quickly as what running does.

A while ago I did a meditation course which lasted 5 weeks or so.  By the end of the 5 weeks I was able to reach a meditative state and keep it for the most part of 60 minutes (which is a huge accomplishment considering when you start you can barely last 3 minutes).  After these sessions I would always leave feeling a little dull – calm and with a head so quiet you could hear a pin drop, but if pushed to make any decision or answer any simple questions, you would think that I’d just suffered some serious brain injury.

So, I would like to know what the relationship is between the effects of meditation and marathon running – I know there are other people out there who reach some state of detachment while running (or doing any other form of exercise for that matter).  I think there is a definite correlation between these two states, even though the one is traditionally sedentary and the one is, well, running…

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  1. Mr. Patrick says:

    Haha that is a very good point Trish. This is a very interesting blog entry. In my opinion meditation and relaxing the mind to a point where you described you felt after your meditation sessions should dramatically improve runner’s performance. Yes you have to be in great physical shape to run a marathon but so much of it is mental. When you allow the “how am I ever gonna finish this race” and “there’s no way I can do this…I’m only half way done!” into your mind, you panic, and your performance weakens and you are less likely to finish or perform well. A peaceful mind should prevent a marathon runner from panicking and allow them to perform well in my opinion

  2. Trish says:

    That explains why most marathon and ultra runners come back for more – they forget what they went through! Also why we seem brainless to those who don’t run.

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