I’m searching for the runner’s high on every run.
I was a little over 23 years old when I first started running.
I had a healthy diet and body, but my lifestyle was sedentary. One day I decided to go to the park for a run. I still don’t know what exactly led me to it. Maybe it was just my intuition telling my mind what my body needed. I didn’t question it. I just did it. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
About three months later, after gaining some experience, I felt it for the first time: the runner’s high.
I remember that Monday as if it were yesterday.
I had just started a new exciting project at work. An old friend called me after a long absence. Not only was I in a good mood, but I was also blissed out by an amazing sunset, like I had never seen before. The trees were in bloom, which carried an extraordinary fragrance far beyond the fence surrounding the park. The wind was blowing softly, which mesmerized my body even more. There weren’t too many people in the park and so I had the place almost entirely to myself.
I started to run, at a slow pace.
After two miles, I began to increase the rhythm because my body simply wanted to. At some point, I felt how my body started slowly to indulge in a certain state of beatitude, as if I was lifting off the ground. I felt increasingly lighter, but the most extraordinary thing of all was that what seemed like an effort only a few short minutes before, to breathe properly and to keep my posture aligned, all faded away. All I was left with was a fantastic relief, almost an inner effusion. I felt no pain, no stress, despite the ankle I sprained a few days back.
The reverie lasted for a few minutes, but for me they seemed like long, beautiful hours.
As soon as I got home, I wanted to find out if other runners felt this too. That’s how I discovered what I had just experienced is colloquially known as the runner’s high. I was surprised though, because I hadn’t done anything special to deserve this rush. It seemed that I was rewarded for just letting my body do its thing, in its own natural rhythm.
This only piqued my interest. I wanted to find out more about it. How it happened, why it happened and how I could make it happen again and again?
Through my research I discovered that, despite popular belief, it seems endorphins have nothing to do with euphoria. As scientists put it, endorphins are too large for the receptor to be able to transmit them to the brain. It came as a shock, I must say, since all my life I had this strong belief that endorphins were responsible for that great vibe you get from sports.
Then I stumbled upon the work of Arne Dietrich, PhD, who has shown that a natural chemical called anandamide and a brain receptor sited called cannabinoid are responsible for “the runner’s high.” This explicitly-named receptor grabs the anandamide in your blood and gives you that amazing rush. The anandamide is nothing more than a fatty acid that simply makes its way around every corner of your body and successfully reaches the brain.
It’s not only the euphoric state of mind that the anandamide delivers, but also longer and pain-free runs. This is only one more example that, somehow, at the end of the day, the mind is in control of everything.
According to the studies conducted by Dr. Dietrich, “paleolithic man” also had anandamide running through his body. It turns out that “the runner’s high” helped our ancestors perfect the endurance skills required for efficient hunting. On his long-distance daily hunting adventures, he suffered from shin splints and sprained ankles, just like we do. The difference is that, for some reason, he knew how to activate the anadamide and, therefore, how to make the pain go away fast.
I’m not at the point where I can control this feeling yet. Since that first experience, I’ve felt “the runner’s high” three more times. The joy and pleasure were the same each time. I’m still learning how to “get high” on every run.
What can I say is, it’s my only addiction, and I cherish it dearly.
Anna Moore has been a happy runner for 5 years. She loves running, hiking, swimming and cooking. In her free time, she writes and runs for runreviews.com, a website dedicated to those who need a treadmill in their life.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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