I wonder if my eyes could be anymore condescending. I hoped every time I heard their ridiculous claims that in the midst of their insanity, other runners recognize the ‘high’ couldn’t possibly exist.
It’s true that seemingly all runners, every serious runner at least and most other athletes, believe they have experienced some sort of ‘high’ while exercising or competing. I used to passionately deny such an aspect when running but then, the euphoric feeling became unmistakable (and usually around mile 5), which is why I cannot argue any longer that such a sensation doesn’t occur at all.
If you are unfamiliar with the runner’s high, you should know it’s a simple thing to explain but still, no explanations can really help one understand it until they’ve felt it personally. I encourage you to seek it out as part of your regular training. Runner’s high is, simply put, a mental state of relaxation throughout strenuous running. It can set me in a state of eternal optimism that will last hours after a run. Although I can’t truly say whether the feeling is truly a “drunk” effect, if I had to equate it to anything, I would compare it to the internal combination of two Red Bulls, three ibuprofen, a 97% on your economics exam plus a $20 winning Lotto ticket in your pocket.
It’s walking on the beautiful line of “I love everything, I could just kiss the next person I see!” and, “Oh God, please kill me now.”
I ran throughout high school and didn’t experience the runner’s high until this year in college and even now, I don’t experience it as much as my teammates and runner friends do. Don’t get discouraged. Give it some time.
Similar to my first time, your first encounter with the runner’s high will be alarming. You may think you’re dehydrated, or that somehow your calorie intake and electrolytes are out of balance but actually, you’ve conquered the wall that most just stop at. Again, I find it difficult to truly explain the feeling but I know that I am astonished how now I actually want to go out and endure the running process in order to find the wall and overcome it, to feel the high.
Scientists haven’t really been able to explain the cause of the chemical reaction associated with the exercise sensation. Although most easily explained as the release of endorphins, there is a problem in that theory: endorphins are too large to pass through the brain barrier, making it impossible for this chemical reaction to be the sole cause.
Researchers have found another possibility that could contribute to the chemical reaction, however- Anandamide, a natural chemical that stimulates the brain the same way marijuana does.
This is why people should stop being stoners and start being runners.
Anandamide (wonderfully from the Sanskrit word meaning “bliss”) is a neurotransmitter produced in our brain. I don’t really understand all the medical terms that can be found on the topic. I’m not that smart. I mean - I’m a journalism major. I know a lot of random stuff, and instead of knowing about how my brain works, I instead exist as a slave to its randomness.
I did find some research however. There have been studies that tested athletes in attempts to prove some the running phenomenon. In general, athletes had a significant amount more of Anandamide in their body than prior to the strenuous workout.
On a side note, it turns out that chocolate has a small amount of Anandamide in it. I will no longer allow my friends to tease me when I buy myself extra chocolate on Valentine’s Day, eat chocolate almost every night and splurge especially on Sundays when I convince myself that devouring a package of M&Ms “isn’t that bad”.
For those who don’t believe in the sensation of the runner’s high, I’d like to hear other explanations to why we are as giddy as school girls after the weekly long run.
To my fellow runners, at least we have a theory to explain our insanity. Turns out we aren’t completely crazy.
It still doesn’t explain the desire of runners to wear awkward neon color combinations, put “eye of the tiger” on repeat during an hour long run, or the spiritual connection I feel when I run through a forest. Then again, some things are better left a mystery.
This research along with the actual experience of runner’s high that I can no longer deny helps me understand why I enjoy running and sometimes even more after I’ve warmed up and thought about stopping but crossed the wall instead.
As the fervent writer that I am and having ran this morning, here’s my lesson of the week:
There is no reason to do drugs.
Go on a long run.
Eat more chocolate.