In it for the long run

The author: In it to win it? Let's just say in it to finish.

The author: In it to win it? Let’s just say in it to finish.

If I can remain injury free, sometime in 2015 I will compete in my 40th running race.

It will likely be a 5K (3.1 miles), and I will cross the finish line quite a while after the first runners have completed the route, chugged a couple bottles of water, and had their breathing return to normal.

And that’s OK, because I’ve found benefits well beyond a medal or some other prize: the satisfaction of completing a goal, doing my best, and living healthier than I otherwise would.

Which makes me an advocate for research that examines the health benefits of regular exercise and especially running. After all, when you think about it, running was probably key to mankind’s evolutionary success. (It’s a long story, but one worth checking out – as in reading Christopher McDougall’s bestseller book, “Born to Run.”)

Unfortunately, there is bad news from the world of running: Federal funding has come to end for one of the greatest studies of all time, the National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Study, which has produced a treasure trove of health-related research data, including 65 peer-reviewed articles over the past 20 years.

This study, which set out to identify the many ways that running and walking affect our health, has been nothing less than landmark, resulting in valuable knowledge of how running and walking – and how much of each – help reduce heart disease, arthritis, and other maladies that take years off our lives.

But funding from the National Institutes of Health has stopped just as thousands of participants have reached their 70s and 80s, meaning we are on the brink of some life-extending knowledge.

And that makes so compelling the recent Wall Street Journal commentary suggesting that the running industry is the logical player to step in and perpetuate the study, at a cost of less than $1 million a year. (See “A Study That Can Help in the Long Run,” by Kevin Helliker.)

We’re not asking for a lot here. The National Sporting Goods Association reported, for example, that the sale of running/jogging shoes in 2012 – just shoes, mind you, and not all of the other apparel associated with running – totaled $3.04 billion.

C’mon, Nikes of the world. Pony up. A study that perpetuates the notion that more exercise is better can only help you.

Take it from someone whose closet floor – littered with years’ worth of high-end running shoes – is evidence.


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