It is something of a cliché among runners, how the activity never fails to clear your head.
Does some creative block have you feeling stuck? Go for a run. Are you deliberating between one of two potentially life-altering decisions? Go for a run. Are you feeling mildly mad, sad, or even just vaguely meh? Go for a run, go for a run, go for a run.
The author Joyce Carol Oates once wrote in a column for the New York Times that “in running the mind flees with the body … in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.” Filmmaker Casey Neistat told Runner’s World last fall that running is sometimes the only thing that gives him clarity of mind. “Every major decision I’ve made in the last eight years has been prefaced by a run,” he told the magazine. But I maybe like the way a runner named Monte Davis phrased it best, as quoted in the 1976 book The Joy of Running: “It’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time,” he said. “Also, there are those hours of clear-headedness that follow a long run.”
A good run can sometimes make you feel like a brand-new person.
And, in a way, that feeling may be literally true. About three decades of research in neuroscience have identified a robust link between aerobic exercise and subsequent cognitive clarity, and to many in this field the most exciting recent finding in this area is that of neurogenesis. Not so many years ago, the brightest minds in neuroscience thought that our brains got a set amount of neurons, and that by adulthood, no new neurons would be birthed. But this turned out not to be true.
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