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November 20, 2012


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Chasing the Elusive Runner's High

For years I chased the elusive runner’s high, something I pictured as being an ecstatic, near religious experience, akin to scoring free tickets to the World Series or finding out that the dress I’d been staring at in the Nordstom’s window had been marked half off and my size was still on the rack. I mean, the word is “high”, right? But all I felt in the middle of a long run was tired.
So I researched how long I had to run before the mythical “high” was supposed to kick in. Answers varied, but a safe bet seemed to be at least 45 minutes. So, at precisely 45:01 I parsed my emotions, searching for the tiniest surge of elation, joy, or euphoria. One time I thought I might have a skosh of giddiness, but that turned out to be the effects of 90 degree temperature and 95% humidity.
I figured maybe the key was oxygen deprivation – I should go anaerobic. Several oxygen deprived minutes later, I decided that I might see visions, sort of like the kind you’d see in a sweat lodge ceremony, but if I kept sprinting I’d wind up prostrate on the sidewalk with not one single joyful thought in my head.
Nope, I decided I must surely be defective in some way. The runner’s high was just not in my genetic makeup.
Then one day I was on a long run, and somewhere in the middle of it I felt this peaceful glow, like I could love the entire world if I could just stretch my arms wide enough. Not only that, I was positive that the whole world loved me back. Yes indeedy, my life was pretty darned good.
Hours later, in the middle of untangling the third major snafu of the week, I yelled, “My life sucks!” and just like that, I got it. The runner’s high isn’t some emotionally euphoric peak, or feeling of tremendous energy or excitement. For me, it’s a feeling that everything is good, and it’s going to just keep getting better.
So, yes, when you see me out in the middle of a long run with a goofy look on my face, I’m probably high. But it’s perfectly legal. And it’s almost as good as World Series tickets.

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