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By Ryan Noel-Hodge February 17, 2009

Running High: A Runner’s Rendition

On a Saturday morning mid-February last winter I woke up at six am to meet two fellow runners an hour later. Like every other Saturday that winter at that particular time, the notion of 'morning' did not apply. It was choking dark, inside and out, and making my way to the bathroom was always a dangerous part of my day. That morning I remember tying my laces and putting on the same pair of thin spandex and windbreaker jacket that I had worn and rinsed the previous day, without even checking the weather, because I didn't need 'The Weather Network' to tell me that it was cold. I recall stepping outside and feeling the cold air harden my clothes, I can remember breathing and thinking that the darkness of the early morning will take over that breath, and every breath thereafter. Standing outside of my apartment just moments before commencing my run was the worst feeling. It was always a transitional phase, the moment between standing still and then entering into movement which wouldn't stop for another sixty five minutes or so. It's the feeling you get just before falling, it's where your body and gravity haven't come to a conclusion yet.

As I started out on that particular run I felt as if every element was trying to stop me. Ice covered the sidewalks so I promptly and delicately tip-toed over them. Snow tried to slow me, so I ploughed through it. Hot air from within the metros gushed out of the doors, teasing me, but I overcame temptation. Running that morning was more than just stride after stride, it was comfortable and it was where I belonged.

As I arrived at the meeting spot, directly in the middle of two intersecting boulevards, on top of a hardened snow bank, I felt exhilarated. Perched on that snow bank I felt like I was on top of the world, a king overlooking his realm which was silent and still asleep. When my fellows arrived we took off instantly towards the mountain that waited for us. By then, I remember snow falling and making it difficult to see, so my face grimaced into a very intense permanent smile. I remember as my friends and I made our way towards the road to the summit we all realised at the same moment that we would be the first to explore this new snow-white world, post-blizzard. We shouted, we sped up, we crashed and dove into the snow, and it was perfect. It was quiet and we killed the silence. The trees stood still, laden with snow so we shook them. That morning wasn't just an easy ten kilometres; it was a full-out intense dynamic activity that turned you into an animal that wished to stay in perpetual movement no matter the direction. That morning was a good morning, it was a high morning, it was a morning where people could be broken, and runners would be made. That morning I was undoubtedly on what some people call 'the runners high'.

The 'runners high' is characterized by an exhilarating feeling of euphoria. Experiences vary from individual to individual but all runners can relate to a similar feeling of ecstasy and jubilation. Others recount feeling utterly calm and serene when they experience the runner`s high. Most believe that the 'high' is caused by a peak in endorphin production in the brain in response to the stress the body is experiencing during a run. The surge of endorphins into the blood stream blocks pain receptors in the nervous systems to halt pain signals being sent to the brain. What results is a feeling of utter control and power over one's body and enables the individual to maintain the run. It has been found that different people have different barriers to reach before basking in the euphoria. Some individuals need to exercise for an hour, some for only twenty minutes, others still, the poor souls, may not even be capable of the experience. As for myself, running is like breakfast; it's essential. I hope that some who read this may feel the same way, and then we might be able to get high together some time, whatever the case, happy runnins'.

Further Reading:
Yes, Running Can Make You High
 

Acknowledgements

The photograph “Run” is by Hernán Piñera, under CC BY-SA 2.0

Comments

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    [ Myst ]

    March 20, 2009

    By no means would I consider myself an athlete but I do workout every other day whether it be doing laps in the pool, running on the treadmill, biking, or just a few sets of weights and exercises. What makes the experience of exercising all the more enjoyable is that high you speak of aside from the obvious health benefits to being active. It doesn’t matter if I’m running or weightlifting, I always get this pumped up feeling where it’s like you can do anything. Your mind is clear and focused, completely serene, and your body feels like it can run the marathon or totally demolish Mike Tyson. And even the soreness in your muscles after a workout make you feel high, it’s like a job well done that makes relaxing on the sofa with your legs stretched out after a good meal that much better.

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    natasha Kozlowski

    March 21, 2009

    As soon as I saw the title of the piece I was intrigued. I’ve never been interested in running until last summer when my sister and I began to run together. As the weeks progressed we increased our time and speed, eventually being able to run for 30min, which is good for us since we are beginners! I admire your devotion towards running. Its fantastic that you run every morning, especially in the winter!  I understand what you mean about a runners high. Whenever I do any form of exercise, whether its running, spinning, yoga, etc a rush of energy overcomes you. You are pumped to work out and give it your all. You feel better physically and emotionally, knowing that you are taking care of your body and health. Exercise is a crucial element to incorporate in your everyday life, it will definitely pay off in the long run!

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    honeybee

    November 21, 2009

    This “high” that is spoken about definitely exists because I know when I would do any physical exercise you feel like your disconnected from your body at one point; in total peace and control of your body and mind. From other articles that I’ve read concerning the “runner’s high”, some believe that this is caused by an increase in production of endorphins, but at the same time, some explain that this experience cannot be solely caused by endorphins as endorphins are too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier. In early 2004, Dr. Daniele Piomelli (UC Irvine) and Dr. Arne Deitrich (University of Beirut and Georgia Institute of Technology) found another possibility: anandamine, a natural chemical that stimulates the brain in the same way marijuana does. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter produced in our brain that activates the cannabinoid receptor Type 1 (CB(1)), the same chemical receptor that is triggered by tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. So just by doing some physical activity, our body will give us a high that is very close to the high created by smoking marijuana.

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    Stela

    February 28, 2010

    Really engaging article. I liked your metaphors. Your passion makes me wanting to run too. I am not an athletic person. Ten minutes run is like a torture for me, i am just not used to. But this article motivated me and gave me the desire to go run. I remember once, I was running, usually after five minutes i have pain, but this time was different… I wasn’t feeling my body, I was concentrated on the feeling of running. I got the impression that I could run for hours. I felt calm and satisfied. When you was talking about the “high” that runners usually are experiencing, that part made me think of the people that are consuming drugs in order to feel this kind of euphoria. It is interesting how to different thing can make you feel the same.

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