A few months ago I got the crazy of training for and completing a half Ironman marathon. As soon as I relayed this idea onto Facebook, a friend, Kevin Curtis, was the first to offer his help, not because he had done one before, but because that’s who he is. Kevin is the type of guy who offers help when needed. He’s the type that finishes a long group run in the lead pack and then encouragingly waits for the last walkers and joggers to come to the finish. Kevin is also the type of person who has the ability to compete with the strongest, yet mostly cares most about competing with himself, his most fierce opponent.
As part of his mentoring me through this endeavor, he gave me a book, Dr. John Medina’s “Brain Rules”. It begins by saying: “Exercise boosts brain power. The human brain evolved under conditions of almost constant motion. From this, one might predict that the optimal environment for processing information would include motion. That is exactly what one finds.”
Conducting evidence based research using the life of Kevin Curtis, we see that such a statement is evidently true. It all started as fun and games playing soccer from as far back as he can remember, and then venturing into baseball and lacrosse, and eventually began rowing, which led him to row his way through college. “My first ever timed running race was a full marathon in Tampa Florida back in 2004 while I was attending UT (Gasparilla Hops Marathon). After classes, working in two labs, studying and rowing / sculling practice I would train late at night for the marathon.” He began biking when he moved to Tampa in 2002, mainly to / from school and lab etc, a trend he continues to implement today.
In 2014, he ventured into the Triathlon world. His first Triathlon was the Huntington Tri on July 27th. His second Tri was the Escape to Miami Olympic distance in September. His eyes are now set on the Miami 70.3 in October.
So what is the correlation between athleticism and brain power evidenced by my mentor? Well, Kevin Curtis is actually Dr. Kevin Curtis, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Miami and Research Chemist at Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He is a dedicated scientist with broad experience in adult stem cell development. He is an expert in the isolation of cloning, cryopreservation and use of human bone marrow stem cells for use in tissue repair and regeneration. He is also the founder, co-owner of Algaergy LLC. Algaergy LLC is a Marine Biomedical Biotechnology and Research organization focused on genetically altering marine plants for use in Biofuel production among other things. I’ve witnessed his electrocuting the algae to insert new genes into its DNA. He is experimenting with how to genetically alter algae in the creation of biofuel. He is also a consultant for Sirenase Marine Discovery based in San Diego, where he acts as a scientific advisor and marine biologist consultant.
Still Kevin manages to find time for his dog, Kobe, go sailing, make friends, and fit in time to train. This year he has signed up for six half marathons and three full marathon. Next year he plans on doing his first Ultra marathon, 50 miler, and a Full Ironman.
Dr. Kevin Curtis is a great athlete, meticulous scientists, but most impressive of all, he’s true friend of the running community here in South Florida. He has been named Team FDC Running Ambassador for the 2014-15 Marathon season. He is respectful, caring, giving, and is genuinely interested in making the world a better place whether it’s through a kind word, or a discovery in his lab that may win a Nobel Prize one day.
“I’m a guy who lives the life everyone else just talks about. And I get that done through dreaming, and believing that anything is possible, oh and a ton of hard work.”
We have a lot to learn from people like Kevin who go through life making detailed and mindful observations; Formulating questions as to why or why not circumstances occur, and then testing those theories by gathering data in everyday adventures and life experiences, then following up that research with thoughtful analysis and reflection that eventually lead to more questions—where the process begins all over again. As runners we can use this scientific method to guide our running journeys as we too test our limits, analyze results, and go back to the drawing board to plan out our next race. The fact that exercise boosts brainpower, should also encourage us all to go for that run, when we want to stay in bed! I guess science does have everything to do with it.