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Runner’s High

I am reading this book that was given to me by my niece, Runners High. I will say that I am not a pot smoker, or weed advocate, or anything like that, so I put off reading it until I was fresh out of a beach read and needed something until I could get to the library. The first chapter pulled me in and I am intrigued by the debate, so I kept reading. Whether you agree with legal weed or not, the book talks quite a bit about the chemicals that naturally produce that elusive “runners high” and so there are parts that the author talked about running that resonated with me. 

For the most part, I love to run. I love seeing new sights, taking advantage of what my body can do, communing with nature, looking at architecture and just being outside. Just the joy and simplicity of a simple run and appreciating the natural world. But I am a 50 yo woman who has been running for 30+ years and I have had arthritis in my knees since I was in middle school. Running hurts. In my last Boston training cycle, I was told that I had rubbed all the cartilage off my knees. But I am a firm believer that to rest is to rust and the pain from running is less than what it would be if I didn’t and let everything firm up. Not a medical diagnoses, just how I feel when I don’t run for a few days. Plus, a completed run just makes me feel better about everything. “Running allow you to exhaust yourself mentally and physically and that brings a pure and simple joy and sense of accomplishment to your life.”

This book talks about the childlike simplicity of a run, the joy it brings, the endorphins and and anandamides produced – the natural runners high. (There is a lot of chemistry in this book).  But it has some really great points about the pure and simple joy you can experience while running.

I also recently read an article in my one of my favorite newsletters, Six Minute Mile, that really hit home about my love of running, it deemed a term that I felt but never quantified – “forest bathing”

From Six Minute Mile article re: Forest Bathing

As my 40s approached, I had lofty goals – qualify for Boston and finish a half Ironman in sub 6 hours. So I spent a lot of time training with a regimented training plan. I accomplished both these goals and felt great about my performance and how my body changed as a result. I was in the best shape of my life, so I continued training in this regimented way nearly year round for the next few years. 

By 2012, I was tired. I had missed so much of my life, my children’s life, and I was continually injured in some way. I needed a break from the plans and goals. I got back to running when and how I wanted to run, biking for the sheer joy of it, and swimming to cool off (I hate swimming as a sport). I was able to get back to the sheer pleasure of these activities – eliminating any purpose other than to enjoy it.   I had decided I didn’t need to run any more marathons, I wanted to run into my old age, rather than long distance – and my knees happily agreed. 

As I write this, I am training for my 6th marathon – Marine Corp in October. A few years back, I had listened to a podcast where Amby Burfoot had stated that he and Jeff Galloway were trying to run a marathon in every decade of their life (excluding their first decade obviously) and they are in their 70s. I thought this was a cool goal and realized that I had already completed one in my 20s, 30s and 40s so why not shoot for the rest!  This was during the pandemic and I needed a goal to focus on!! 

In one of the hottest summers on record, my days are defined by getting up early so I can get my intervals, tempo and long runs in – and it has a been a challenge. I am dreading running 15 miles in 90 degree heat this week, but I know this is my own choice.  This is my goal. But sometimes I question my sanity. 

The book states “This is the ultimate conundrum with ambitions for greatness encounters.  You get excited about a lofty goal, but in your myopic pursuit of something out of your reach, you lose touch with the present.  You lose sight of the childlike wonder that made the thing appealing in the first place.” The books does go on, again with much scientific jargon, as to how you can back to the simpleness of running with joy, with medical assistance and not. But I think the moral of the story is that sometimes we can get caught up in our goals, our challenges and the plan it takes to get there – and you need to remind yourself to think about why you are doing this. Focus less on the drudgery and more on the beauty. Remind yourself of the journey and freedom of running, and less on the plan. Let go, judge yourself less and just run.

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