Telomeres and Running

January 22nd, 2014

It should be noted that the co-directors of The Immortalists are runners, not in the hope of living forever but for health and recreation. In fact, a lot of the brainstorming for the film happened on foggy jogs through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and sweltering runs through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Our lazy jogs are child’s play compared to Bill Andrews’s epic 100+ mile monthly ultramarathons. The film covers one such 126-mile ultramarathon (I wrote about it at the time) that takes place in the most extreme conditions, including running over two passes greater than 18,000 ft in elevation.

Bill runs not merely as sport, but to combat aging. There has been several recent studies to back up Bill’s claim that endurance exercise increases the lengths of our telomeres. In fact, popular running magazines are taking notice of the length of telomeres in ultrarunners and its relationship to aging too.

While Bill Andrews runs to slow the aging process down by increasing the chance of having longer telomeres, there are nasty health consequences of running ultramarathons, as the New York Times pointed out, but the reduced risk of cancer and diabetes might outweigh the odds of getting a foot injury or hay fever attack.