A review last month from the Mayo Clinic dropped a bomb on endurance athletes by suggesting that “excessive” exercise may “induce pathologic structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries.”
That sounds bad. Or is it? Isn’t the point of exercise to strengthen your heart and open up your blood vessels?
The study focused on what they call “long-term, excessive endurance exercise.” And I am, in fact, a long-term, excessive endurance exerciser.
Running sometimes as much as 100 miles per week, I am one of thousands of endurance athletes in California and beyond who are increasingly exercising to an extent that some would call excessive.
But in focusing on the heart as simply a pump, the researchers may have missed some more subtle — and more poetic — functions of the heart.
People like me, this growing tribe, we run to be free. We run to feel our lungs expand and contract, to feel the trails and pavement beneath our feet and to see and explore places we wouldn’t otherwise see. We run to discover more about the world we inhabit, to connect with ourselves and others, to find out who we are and what we’re capable of, to seek solace in sorrow and to celebrate life’s blessings.
I would argue that running is the glue that binds my life. Runners are a supportive breed; we help one another succeed. We’re fiercely committed to our collective success and to keeping the sport alive.
Running may be my vice or my virtue, but in any case, it fills my heart with joy. Working at The San Francisco Marathon, I’ve seen the power of running to transform bodies, give up their unhealthy vices and form healthy relationships.
Am I crazy? To some people I am. But I’m just crazy about the trails, pavement and running community that I call home. I don’t believe that running, even excessively, is dangerous. But I do know that it makes my heart … sing.
With a Perspective, I’m Joanna Reuland.
Joanna Reuland manages social media for The San Francisco Marathon and likes to run in the Marin Headlands.