It is often talked about, sometimes in whispers, sometimes in wonder, maybe disbelief ... but for those who believe, it is praised, and those who have felt it, there is a nod of acknowledgement. It is the runner's high. It is the feeling of elation and euphoria, felt during and after running ... the feeling that keeps runners going, the feeling that runners go back to. It IS the reason for the running addiction. It is the force that allows runners to wake up at 5am to run outside, in the dark, in the cold, in the snow, in the rain. Even when it hurts.
But what is it? Is it real? Is it an urban legend, as some (undoubtedly non-runners) say?
I have felt it. And I can only describe what it is like ...
The runner's high is Christmas morning. It is the last day of school before summer vacation, when the final bell rings. It is hanging out with friends at a really great party, feeling good, with great music, drink, food, and company. It is achieving a goal -- personal, professional, and spiritual. It is being at home, with your loved ones, your family, not really doing anything, but just being there with them. Yes, it's that good.
But really, what is it, and how does it work?
Science points to endorphins that are created during exercise. The hormones that make you feel good. Like a drug. Literally getting drunk and high from running.
This may be true, but there has to be more to it from running. Because of my injuries and health conditions, I have not been able to run. I have tried my hardest to recreate the runner's high. I have tried my best to get my body to release these endorphins to get me to that place ... that place of the runner's high. But I haven't come close. Today I used the elliptical for over an hour straight. I used my whole body, I got my heart rate in the target 80% of max range for 90% of that time. I sweat. I felt some muscles burn. I burned calories.
Exercise feels good ... but it doesn't come close to the runner's high. It doesn't come close to the feeling of stepping out the door first thing in the morning, taking those first few steps, and knowing you are going to have a great run. It doesn't come close to that moment during a run when you feel like you're floating, effortlessly, and feel that you could run forever, tirelessly. It does not come close to the feeling at the end of a run when you look back at your mileage, your time, your PR, your new mileage record, your sense of accomplishment.
And no way -- no way -- does it even come close to that feeling in a race when you see the finish line, you kick it, you hear supporters, including your family, cheer you on all the way to the end.
Only running can give you that feeling.
Damn do I miss it.