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Posted on April 4, 2013

When I first began running, I believed that “runners high” was a fairy tale.  The only feeling I had experienced was one I referred to as “running sucks”.  It hurt, both physically and mentally.  I couldn’t conceive of a feeling during a run that I would ever refer to as a “high”.  Now I know better.  I have discovered this “high”, and could not image my life without a few “doses” of it each and every week.

In hindsight, I have realized that there are a number of reasons why I did not understand the idea of “runners high” when I first got started in the sport.  To begin with, “runners high” is probably not the best name for this experience. It is nothing like being high.  In my eyes, it is more like a buzz, or a glow that you feel after a good run.  The feeling is a subtle one, not a sharp one.   Your body feels a bit looser, your problems fade, and your mind gets quieter.

The next issue is that many new runners have unrealistic expectations about “runners high”.  They expect some kind of magic absence of pain, like being on drugs.  That’s not what the experience is like.  To be honest the feeling is almost totally opposite of that.  After a good run, you are going to be feeling a bit of pain in your legs.  A newer runner may find this to be a negative thing.  A more experienced runner will see these feelings in another light.  This discomfort is a part of the “high”.  A good run puts small tears in your muscles, which can make them ache.  As you continue with your running, you may be surprised to find that you begin to enjoy this sensation.  It is the feeling of working your body hard, and in turn building your muscles for future efforts.  Most long time runners learn to love this feeling.  This is the core of a great “runners high”.

There is also a mental aspect to “runners high”.  Many runners describe this experience as a subtle “quieting of your brain”.  It doesn’t make you forget your problems, but it does make them feel a bit less important.  It’s like turning down the volume on the things that stress you out.  For many, this is one of the most wonderful parts of the running experience.

The other issue new runners’ face in regards to “runners high” is the fact that discovering this sensation is not always easy.  There are a number of things that can get in your way.  You have to be comfortable with some of the more challenging parts of running (getting sweaty, minor muscular pain, mental issues, etc.) if you are to successfully discover your own “high”.  Newer runners find that it can take as long as 2 – 3 months of regular running to finally experience this feeling.  It takes this much time because you need adequately develop your aerobic base to run long enough to experience a “runners high”.  As for experiencing these feelings on any particular workout, most people find that they need to run for at least 20 – 30 minutes.  As their runs get longer, and faster, the feeling will get stronger.

Please take my word when I tell you that taking the time to discover this feeling is definitely worth the effort.  After your runs, you will find that your outlook will be just a bit better and your body will feel a little more comfortable.  There is nothing else quite like it.  If you keep on running, sooner or later you will discover these sensations for yourself.  Before long I expect that you will actually start to crave these feelings.  Once you have reached this point, you will truly understand what this “runners high” business is all about.