Courtesy TheGirlsNY (with my apology)Stefaan Engels now holds a new world's record for completing 365 marathons in as many days. That's more marathons in a single year than anyone else. Talk about nuts! This guy ran 9569 miles! That's like running through the center of the Earth and coming out on the other side and then running from New York to Salt Lake City. Engels said he approached his marathon marathon as if it were a job and everyday spent about four hours completing each race. Evidently, it was just a part-time job. I guess if nothing else this just proves how resilient and truly amazing our human bodies are (well maybe not mine, but somebody's). Go here for more about this feat.
Courtesy perpetualplumHave you ever run barefoot? It’s great! I’ve never really thought about why I like it, but some really cool biomechanics research coming out of Harvard suggests that there may be some evolutionary reasons for my enjoyment. Homo sapiens and our early ancestors have engaged in endurance running for more than a million years, and have done so with no shoes, or with minimal footwear (sandals, moccasins, etc.). The researchers wanted to know how these early humans (and some humans today, let’s not forget) were able to run comfortably and safely sans shoes. Daniel Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, and his crew found that barefoot runners land either on the balls of their feet or mid-foot (the balls of their foot and heel at the same time), while shod runners land on their heels, or heel-strike, to use the lingo. This makes sense when you look at the structure of our feet; our strong, high arch acts like a spring when we run, and this spring can only be loaded when we first land on our forefoot. It wasn’t until the 1970’s when running shoes came equipped with highly cushioned heels that it began to seem normal to run heel-to-toe. (Some research even suggests that not just running shoes, but all shoes are detrimental to our foot health)
With some super advanced equipment (Harvard undergrads are so lucky), Lieberman saw how much of an impact heel-striking causes. When you heel-strike, your foot comes to a dead stop, causing your foot and leg to have to absorb all of that kinetic energy (a force which is 2-3 times your body weight). When you land on your forefoot, however, some of that kinetic energy is converted into rotational energy as your foot goes from toe to heel. This is obviously much less jolting. The researchers hypothesize that heel-striking is the cause of a lot of running-related repetitive stress injuries, and by avoiding heel-striking, more runners could see less of these types of injuries.
If you want to try running barefoot (and I recommend), Lieberman cautions that you shouldn’t just jump into it (especially if it is February in Minnesota), but rather start slowly. Running barefoot uses different muscles and it takes a little while for your feet to get used to it if you’ve been a shod runner your whole life. Who knows, your feet may be your new favorite shoes.
Ever look down at your feet and wonder why your toes look and move the way they do? You might even have heard the myth that having a second toe longer than your first (something orthopaedic surgeon Dudley Morton dubbed Morton's Toe) means you are more likely to be a criminal, or part of a royal family.
While having toes of different lengths (some longer or shorter than others) is completely normal, some people are so concerned about the size and shape of their toes that they get them shortened by a cosmetic surgeon. Other people need surgery on their toes and feet because the shape makes walking painful.
We all have toes of slightly different shapes and sizes, but did you know that human beings as a whole have comparatively shorter toes than most primates, including our closest relative, the chimpanzee? Compare us to other animals like cats and dogs, and you'll notice that their toes are REALLY short compared to the rest of their paws. What's going on here?
The researchers behind a new paper about the evolution of human toes think that the answer to why humans evolved such short toes might be related to long-distance running. According to researchers, having shorter toes - along with a number of other adaptations - probably gave our ancestors an edge when it came to endurance running, which was necessary to kill and eat large animals. This article from Wired Science explains:
"...many modern anatomical features make sense in the context of savannah marathons. Achilles tendons act as springs to store energy. Our hind limbs have extra-large joints. Our buttocks muscles are perfect for stabilization, as are regions of the brain uniquely sensitive to the physical pitching generated by the motion of running. Toes may belong to this class of adaptations."
I've never been able to run a marathon, but this is still pretty cool news. Now, you might be asking yourself what will happen over time to the shape of human toes now that we no longer have to run down our dinner? According to toe researcher Campbell Rolian, "that's generally a question you could ask about many features of the human anatomy," said Rolian. Because it isn't required to push off, he said, "There's talk about whether the pinkie toe is eventually going to disappear."
Not the pinkie toe?! That one is my favorite.
Source: Wired Science
Courtesy Monica DarbyDon’t you just hate those perky people who come back from a long run or a hard workout and tell you how great they feel? Well, they’re probably not pulling the con job that I always thought was the case. Science has now proven that theoretical runner’s high actually exists.
Ever since the running/jogging craze kicked into high gear in the 1970s, zealots of the craze have extolled the virtues of the runner’s high they experienced. Those in the scientific world figured there might be something to it, that the act of intense working out could produce endorphins in the body that could elevate a person’s feeling of pleasure. But they had now way of measuring that.
Thanks to research being done by scientists in Germany, ways of tracking those endorphins have now been discovered. Researchers at the University of Bonn, who had been studying pain in the body, realized that their same methods could be used to measure the runner’s high. Results of the studied were reported in a story in the New York Times last week.
Here’s how it worked. The researchers conducted PET scans of runners’ brains before and after two-hour runs. The runners knew they were part of a study, but were not told they were being gauged for the effects of runner’s high. Along with the scans, the runners also filled out questionnaires following each run to measure their current mood.
The scans found that indeed more endorphins were being released in the runners’ bodies during their workouts. In fact, they were attaching themselves in the same portion of the brain that are active in emotional reactions like romance or emotion. Runners whose tests showed that they were in the best moods following their runs also showed more endorphins going to their brains.
Not all runners get the experience to the same degree and researchers want to find out why, and possibly how low-endorphin runners can increase their endorphin production.
The Germans are also now moving into a new phase of their study, to see if the endorphin release in physical activity can have an impact on pain felt by the athletes. They have heard stories of people running on broken legs or while suffering a heart attack and not being hampered in their workout. They want to see if there’s science to back up those stories.
BTW: I just want to go on record here and now to volunteer as a participant in any future studies that measure endorphin production while eating chocolate or pizza.
Actually, Williams ran the marathon while on a treadmill in the International Space Station. She started her 26-plus mile effort at the same time that runners in Boston began the Earth-based marathon. It actually took her 4 hours, 24 minutes to cover the marathon’s distance on the treadmill. She was running in an orbit 210 miles above the surface of the Earth.
But when you factor in that the space station is orbited Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, Williams’ body passed over the actual length of a marathon in just five seconds.
Running a marathon in space required some other special accommodations as well. Bungee cords were used to keep Williams connected to the treadmill because of the weightless conditions of space. And she followed the progress of the actual marathon going on in Boston with a laptop computer.
Two of her friends were running in the actual marathon on Earth, as well. Williams is an experienced marathoner and ran a three-hour-29-minute marathon in Houston last year.