Marathon Journey: Day 11

Yesterday I mentioned something about endorphins.

I’ve heard this weird thing from time to time. About “runner’s high.”

Often this is couched in the idea that runners are basically addicted to running, and they’re running to get slightly fucked up.

Okay, it’s definitely true that exercise makes you feel better. And this is probably linked to chemicals in your body.

But I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a “runner’s high” in my entire running life, which is 15 years+ at this point. I’ve had experiences where I enjoyed running, I’ve had experiences where I was running fast and it felt good in some way. But I wouldn’t describe it as a high, or if I did, it was the most input for the least output in terms of ways to get messed up that I could EVER think of.

I did a little reading on runner’s high, and the most significant thing to me was this: people who DO feel runner’s high are feeling it, at best, every couple years. At worst, like 1/1,000th of a percent of the time or not at all.

Which is another wrinkle. It’s not like someone who experiences this relatively frequently feels amazing every time they strap on their shoes. Or every third time. It’s like once every three years? That’s crazy! Who would do something every day for a high that came once every 3 years?

Which is probably why this concept pisses me off. It implies I’m sort of stupid.

I mean, wouldn’t it be way easier for me to huff paint or something? Just uncap a couple Sharpies and shove them up my nose? If I was looking for my next fix, and if that fix was at the end of a dozen miles of roadwork, wouldn’t that seem like an awfully long way to go? I’m old enough to drink. I live in a state where recreational weed is legal. There is a can of duster in a cabinet like ten feet away from my desk at work. Frankly, I’m a little insulted that you think I’m so stupid that I can’t figure out an easier way to get high. I mean, it’s like saying that people who write long research papers get a high after they’re done. Shouldn’t they? And if that’s WHY they were doing it, don’t you think they’d be like, “Wait, I could write this whole research paper, or I could get one of those cigarette things where you put 5 cigarettes in one holder and smoke them all at once”?

I think, for the most part, people talk about runner’s high because they think running is a bad thing to do and they want to prove it somehow. They’ve made the subjective decision that running is a bad thing for a person, and now they’re looking for a way to say, “See, I KNEW it! You’re not doing something healthy. You’re no better than some coke addict blowing rails off a Molly Hatchet cover because they look metal as hell, and all the while, you fool, they’re not metal in the least!”*

And I think we go down the twisty, misunderstood road of body chemicals because when you’re trying to prove that a reasonable amount of exercise is bad, you’re going to have a fucking hard time, and you’ve got some straws to grasp at. It’s the same thing that helped the idea of vaccines and autism take off. Take something that’s not understood all that well (autism) and match it up with something that’s also not well understood by the general public (vaccines) and you can make a case for something being bad with almost no evidence. Take something that’s not understood that well (chemicals in the human body) and apply it to something that’s misunderstood (the enjoyment of running) and bam, you’ve got a great case against those smug runners.

All I really have to say to those people is, Hey, Don’t Worry About It. Maybe I am getting high as hell. Maybe my life is headed down a dark alley of despair. Maybe The Wire will come back to television, and this season will be about kids distance running and convincing other kids to do the same. Maybe running will be revealed as an addiction that’s ruining my life.

But on the other hand, I’m not going to break into your house and steal your shit to fund my habit. I’m not going to get in my car after a run and crash head-on because I’m driving the wrong way down the interstate. I’m not even going to pass out on your couch, forcing you to be concerned for my safety and concerned that I’m going to hurl on your carpet.

In the meantime, if any runners have tips on how to get high as hell FROM RUNNING, then I’m open to suggestions. I’m skeptical, untrustingly open to your stupid suggestions, which are probably dumb.


*Thanks, Matt!