The Runner’s High and Why We Love It!

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Have you ever felt like you could run forever? -Like your legs are on auto-pilot while your mind disassociates from your body. You attain a higher mental state where your thoughts become clear and contemplative and the miles seem to wiz by. This is known as the runner’s high.
runner's high

Many runner’s have experienced it.

Some doubt it. . .

But I’m here to tell you that it is real.

It is scientific.

And it is awesome!


Wikipedia defines the runner’s high as the “production of endorphins that occurs during strenuous exercise, endorphins attach themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions (limbic system and prefrontal cortex); endorphins can also be related to relaxation and pain relief.

Webster’s 1978 Dictionary defines it as “a feeling of euphoria that is experienced by some individuals engaged in strenuous running and that is held to be associated with a release of endorphins in the brain.”

An article in the NY Times described it well. “Every athlete has heard of it, most seem to believe in it and many say they have experienced it.”

Yiannis Kouros who could be classified as a legend in the world of Ultra running once explained what he was feeling when he was running. In an article he wrote published by Ultrarunning magazine in March of 1990 he stated,

“Some may ask why I am running such long distances. There are reasons. During the ultras I come to a point where my body is almost dead. My mind has to take leadership. When it is very hard there is a war going on between the body and the mind. If my body wins, I will have to give up; if my mind wins, I will continue. At that time I feel that I stay outside of my body. It is as if I see my body in front of me; my mind commands and my body follows. This is a very special feeling, which I like very much. . . It is a very beautiful feeling and the only time I experience my personality separate from my body, as two different things.”

When a person first starts their running journey the body often associates running with an unpleasant experience. You may have to force yourself out to run and drag yourself through the entire workout.

There may come a point though when your mind and body start to crave the running experience. Does the mind become dependent on running or does the body form the dependence? The answer may be both. A person may even get to the point where for all medical purposes they are addicted to running.

Recently I’ve had to step back from my normal running routine because of knee pain related to my pregnancy. I’ve noticed some depression-like symptoms and feel a sense of loss in my life. I know logically that I haven’t lost running forever, but the reality that I can’t run without pain right now is hard to accept. I guess I understand the way the runner’s high has played a part in my life and I can’t wait to get it back.

Also Mentioned in this Episode

  • RunKeeper – iPhone app for runners
  • Team in Training – a way for you to use your marathon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • The Lore of Running by Dr. Tim Noakes -a very technical and comprehensive handbook for runners



P.S.Once you’ve experienced the runner’s high it can turn a grueling run into a mountain top experience. Happy running!

10 Responses to The Runner’s High and Why We Love It!

  1. Trevor June 26, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    So . . . what do you think?

  2. gina June 28, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Looking forward to my first runners high. You two are always great to listen to.

    • Trevor June 28, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Gina. Keep building up your running base, you will see a transformation of both mind and body. Three miles was very difficult for me a short time ago, but now I crave to get out there and run and the miles go by with less difficulty. You can do it!

  3. NoiselessPenguin July 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    I remember my first runner’s high – amazing! I’ve tried to tell people ‘well, it’s sort of meditative… kind of transcendental!’ and they all think I’m mad. I’ll have to remember your descriptions of it.

    Another great iPhone app is a Couch to 5k app. There are several in the store, but Get Running is brilliant. Why? Not only is it very simple with a clear list of workouts that you can skip, go back to earlier ones, etc., it has a phenomenally friendly-sounding voiceover artist telling you when to run/walk, encouraging you and congratulating you at the end of each run. Seriously, I am in love with the voice.

    http://splendid-things.co.uk/getrunning/

    Thanks for the podcast and can’t wait for the next one!

    • Trevor July 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, we’re glad to have you in our listening audience.

  4. Danielle July 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    Love this! Totally agree that the Runner’s High is real. After my first 18 mile long run, I almost cried at the end because I was so happy that I did it. I felt a sense of accomplishment. It made the seemingly impossible, all of a sudden seem – possible.

  5. Ben July 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    I hope you hang in there, Angie. I know how frustrating it can be to lose running even for a short time. I have battled shin splints and knee tendintis and I hated to see people out there running and not being able to join them. You’ll be out on the road passing people by in no time. I love the podcasts. Keep up the great work.

  6. Angie July 30, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

    Great job with that 18 miler Danielle. The runner’s high makes it so much better.

    Thanks for your encouraging words Ben. I can’t wait!

  7. Heidi July 31, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

    Just ran my very first 5K in early July and have slowly increased my distance…. I had my husband drop me off 5 miles from home and I ran home… wasn’t until then that I felt so good in a run… it was as if I had taken a nap while I was running (how can that be)…. a peaceful nap while running??? I hadn’t really entertained the thought of doing a 10K until that day and I am now running 6.2 Miles 3 days a week with a 10 K race in my own back yard just 2 weeks away! Your right Angie, “I’m well on my way” Thanks for the Podcasts!!!

  8. Angie August 1, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    I’m so excited for you Heidi. You’re making amazing progress. Good luck with the 10k. Be sure and let me know how it goes.

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