This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On The Running Trail.

May 29, 2012


I’ve always been fascinated by the brain, and in particular the whole hemispheric thing – Left brain quantifies, measure and decodes, while the right brain intuits and creates and senses.  And the left-brain dominant people think the creative/right side is basically wasted space, while right-brainers think the left-brains people Just Don’t Get It, Man. I bring it up because while I am extremely right-brain dominant, my friend Mark is left-brained.

He doesn’t have the sunset and the ocean and stuff, man. Well, he does, but not like I do.

I’m the creative type who writes, and performs, and acts, but also loses my keys every day and goes in to a sort of waking coma filling out insurance forms.  Mark is an engineer.  As such, he made a whole bunch of money and retired young, which, okay advantage: left brain, but you know what?  He may have his big house and cool car and be retired and stuff, but you know what he doesn’t have?  He doesn’t have… something.  Something artistic and beautiful that I have.  I can’t think of an example, but it’s there somewhere.

Suddenly I’m feeling depressed.  Hm.


Well, anyway, the two of us I go running together on the weekends, getting ready for a race that’s coming up.  And the two of us running together is like a study in the hemispheres of the brain.  I show up with my shorts and t-shirt and shoes.  I don’t like to bring a watch or anything, because – even though I want to keep my pace up and work on time – I just want to run.

How I imagine the running trail looks through Mark’s eyes.

Mark shows up with a fully decked-out running outfit and a GPS watch that tracks our current pace, pace overall, total distance, running time, current elevation and elevation gains and losses (“We’re currently at 3,460 feet.  Oh man, we’ve only gone up 145 of the 780 feet we have to.”)

We’re both working on shorter strides – the current thinking on running is staying light on the feet: balls of the feet and taking 3 steps per second.  Mark achieves this by loading an iPod with music calibrated out to 180 beats-per-minute.  I do it by visualizing myself running across lily-pads floating on a massive pond.  I don’t like listening to music while I run because I like to let my mind wander.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m right and he’s wrong, or that I’m ridiculous.  I wouldn’t want to quantify our runs that much, but he enjoys it.  It’s a deeply opposing approach to it, yet we’re having equal fun at it, which is just fascinating to me.

So, when we do this race coming up, it won’t just be he and I crossing the finish line, it’ll be the whole brain.  And I’ll take a moment to contemplate the nature of thought itself and the meaning of the race we’ve just run as metaphor for life.  And Mark will  work on his stat-chart measuring our progress.  And all will be balanced.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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59 Comments on “This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On The Running Trail.”

  1. Elyse Says:

    If you can get him to fill out your insurance forms, you’ll win.


  2. 1pointperspective Says:

    My brain usually shifts from topic to topic as I run. It goes something like this: “This sucks…Are we there yet?…What are the early symptoms of a heart attack again?…I hate these Nikes, shoulda worn the ASICs…this sucks…are we there yet?…”

    After the first mile the inner dialogue stops and is replaced by the sounds of my labored breathing and creaking/popping joints.


  3. Life With The Top Down Says:

    I have 2 nephews/brothers that are very much like you and your friend. It seems like your friend is what I call “organized creative” (engineer). One of my nephews is a musician and when leaving for a trip is very happy with a toothbrush in his pocket and a plastic bag suitcase. The other one is a chef and has a leather bag for every form of travel. You are right, when those brains’s magic.


  4. Ape No. 1 Says:

    Haha! I run regularly with a bunch guys at work and I have seen the whole spectrum from the free spirits running solely to natures rhythms to the cyborgs driven by cold Swiss timing and up to the millisecond biometrics, and just like yourself and Mark we all have fun in our own personal ways.


  5. MJ, Nonstepmom Says:

    I sometimes think I was only born with half a brain & my bro the other half – he is a republican (but we still love him) engineer, and I’m the “misplaced hippie chick”. ( I think we were supposed to be twins, cuz together we can read each others minds and get into conversations no one else can follow.)
    Its crazy how some of us can be so driven by one side !


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I always feel kind of bad for the people who are too driven by one hemisphere – who genuinely see no value in the other. It seems more common with left-brain science types, who get actively disdainful of anything non-empirical.


  6. Tori Nelson Says:

    I’m more of a running across lily pads kind of runner myself. Maybe I also like to run wearing a headband woven from dandelions. Whatever. I get to the finish line… and normally in a pretty zen and artful fashion 🙂


  7. sj Says:

    Hee! Running across lily pads has left interesting imagery in my head. Thanks for that giggle this morning.


  8. pegoleg Says:

    Lily pads? Running across lily pads – really? There’s right brain and then there’s…this.


  9. susielindau Says:

    I love the image of you on the balls of your feet prancing across the lily pads!
    I am very “like-minded.”


  10. becomingcliche Says:

    So the two of you together make up one entire brain. That’s awesome!


  11. Go Jules Go Says:

    Ha! That’s awesome. You know I’m there with you in right-brain land (although the project manager in me might argue, but you know what? Screw her. She just pays the bills). How long is this race? I think it’s interesting that you don’t listen to music. I do that sometimes, too, but find my pace suffers for it (not like I’m running any marathons over here, geesh, don’t go crazy on me). Is your wife left-brained? Peppermeister is kind of in between (he’s a righty, but a creative musician/teacher).


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      The race is a half-marathon, because I’m half-cool. My pace can sometimes slow down, definitely, but for some reason music doesn’t help me very much.

      And my wife (who needs a cool nick-name like “Peppermeister”) is pretty mixed. Creative, but very detail & task oriented.


  12. Anastasia Says:

    Love this kind of post for some reason… Psych/neuro is interesting..


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I think studying the brain would be endlessly fascinating. I remember reading something how will never understand the whole brain because you can’t understand something entirely if you’re using the thing itself to understand it.


  13. Curly Carly Says:

    Sometimes I wish I could get a


    • Curly Carly Says:

      My phone sucks. Anyway, I wish I could get a brain scan to fIgure out if I’m right or left brained. I swear I’m both, which would be great, except that most of the time I feel like both types of people just don’t get me cause I’m not all one or the other. I think I’m the only creative accountant I know. Better than being a boring one I guess.


      • The Byronic Man Says:

        “I summarized your annual account activity with this mural. Notice how the gnome is fighting the leopard. Something to think about with your long-term investing plans.”


  14. tomwisk Says:

    I’ve always had a theory. We remember everything that our senses intake and all of this is information is filed. The problem is the retrieval system. Most folks are in the Model T and Model A group while others have Shelby’s, Ferrarris and Lamborghenis. Writers are somewhere in the middle. We remember, and write it down.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Or at least write down a more interesting version of what happened. What should have happened. Or, as Ken Kesey put it in one of my favorite lines, “It’s the truth, even if it didn’t happen.”


  15. Michelle Gillies Says:

    I think my right brain totally screwed my left brain. Interesting study.


  16. My Ox is a Moron Says:

    I am one of those interesting people who is both brained. Some days I with myself constantly, some days I feel like not talking to myself and other days my brain actually cooperates. That is when the fun begins. Organized creativity in 3D!

    The brain is a fun toy and most interesting to learn about.


  17. Valentine Logar Says:

    Before I was hurt I was a runner, there were days I listened to music simply to tune out the noise of the world; other days I liked the noise of the world simply to tune out with. Everything else, I am with you never used gadgets to measure anything with just ran till i was tired, then ran back.


  18. Archon's Den Says:

    At a management seminar, the instructor had us play blind, three-level, tic-tac-toe, to sort us out, much like your five-moves-ahead game. It’s like Coke Vs. Pepsi, nobody’s “right”, but many people like to think they are.


  19. Love & Lunchmeat Says:

    I don’t know… According to science, it’s actually women make better neural connections between the two hemispheres. I’ve never been a big believer in hemisphere dominance myself. The way the brain is set up, you’d barely be functional without fairly good use of both sides.

    I just think your running friend is a little neurotic, and it’s probably more nurture than nature at that. All that gear is probably just his way of controlling things.


    • Remediator Says:

      Neurotic, Controlling, and a male to boot. But other than that, I’m really pretty lovable.


      • Love & Lunchmeat Says:

        Okay, you win this round by describing yourself as lovable, but can you beat me at Poker? ‘Cause I’m pretty damn good. I think I wear people down with trash talk. They drink heavier, which pushes the odds in my favor.

        I didn’t make up that fact about men and women though. I read it on the internet, so it must be true… Kidding. It was in my anatomy textbook, although it does sound a little sexist now that I’m actually thinking about it. Sorry.


        • The Byronic Man Says:

          I’ve read that too – I remember it being described as men having a bumpy dirt road connecting the hemispheres, and women having a 4-lane highway. It’s also, supposedly, why women can articulate their feelings so well while men are saying, “I dunno… sad?”


  20. Angie Z. Says:

    I can relate. I’m so right-brained that I practically have a disability. My husband is thankfully left-brained to the extreme. It makes for some fantastic fights. No, just kidding. But we’d probably be divorced if it weren’t for the fact that we’re completely in love with each other, in addition to my husband being a saint with the patience of Mr. Rogers.

    I think Mr. Rogers might be left-brained. I would never hang up a sweater.


  21. She's a Maineiac Says:

    Ok, first off– I just love the way you write. Especially the lines: Suddenly I’m feeling depressed. Hm. and then So.
    This killed me. You’re cracking me up with the least amount of words possible. This is a huge talent you have, B-man. Seriously LOVE that about you. Again, you should consider being a stand-up comedian.

    Second, I suppose I am both left and right brained. I just wish I had either side back again, that’s all. I miss them both. Sniff.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Thanks for saying so. I can’t think of anything clever to respond with. Hopefully that doesn’t undo your compliment. “Never mind. That was all you had, apparently.”

      Hey, did you know I used to BE a stand-up comedian???!!!


  22. Rocket Says:

    I’ve always wondered what it would be if both my right and left brain turned into human form. They’d have lots of fights with each other. Who will win? Stay tuned.


  23. Remediator Says:

    I love that you run
    With the other half of our
    Fully working brain

    But seriously
    How can you go on without
    Knowing your split times?

    In my head it is
    Numbers that form the rhythm
    Of a good story



    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Oh, trying to one-up me with showing off your poetry skills? Well, two can play at that game, mon frere!

      X= -b plus or minus the square root of b-squared minus 4ac over 2a

      Quadratic formula, baby.

      Also, the sum total of what I remember from Algebra II.


  24. montologist Says:

    You certainly see the world in a unique way. If I may say, it’s really nice to read thoughts from someone who sees the differences in people as complimentary and something to be celebrated. Too often people bicker about who has the correct way. Thank you for this refreshing viewpoint, and for giving me some inspiration for a new post of my own dealing with the brain and hemispheric lateralization.


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