Thursday, July 21, 2011

Runner's High and Bird Food

Even though there may be many explanations as to what defines a runner’s high and how does one know when it is experienced, I don’t believe there is any one definition. Some runners claim they feel euphoric while others claim it’s a feeling of relaxation or being energized. And, they go as far as saying it leads to an addiction. Oh my…! That seems extreme. I know for certainty it was the complete opposite of what I felt running 12 miles last Sunday in the heat.
Last Sunday was one of those days when I was begging for a cloud to pass by to block the suns relentless rays. I realized how bad it was when a bird...
soaring overhead was casting its shadow at my feet. I immediately thought it was a turkey vulture; yum, yum, a runner. Not today birds. Onward. 
Rarely do I not complete my training once started. Sometimes I just need to throw in the towel for the sake of reducing risk of injury, illness, or falling on my face. So that’s what I did. No, I didn’t fall on my face. I called it a day, focusing on refilling the tank with water, carbohydrates and protein.
Anyway, some research has shown that a runner’s high is nothing more than the psychological euphoric sensation one feels upon completion of a hard run or any endurance sport; just like I felt upon completion of my first marathon in Hartford and qualifying for Boston at the same time. I was riding high then. I was feeling so great upon crossing the finish line, that I didn’t care about how physically wasted I was. That changed shortly after when I could barely walk along with experiencing waves of nausea.
For more than 30 years, because of limited technology, it was difficult to scientifically prove if a runner’s high existed. See, the only way to prove if endorphins, the natural analgesic or pain reliever in the body, was being released to the brain was to perform spinal taps on runners after running. Let’s see, should I be a guinea pig for running-kind or relax having a cold drink after I run? I know what a spinal tap is and I’ll be darned if you are getting me on a table and do that to me. Results started flowing in when they did not need to stick needles in people to measure the endorphin-brain relationship.
In a 2008 New York Times article it was demonstrated that using current technology endorphins are released to parts of the brain that provide pleasure. So does that prove runner’s high exists?
In a more recent New York Times article, it was said that although endorphins travel to the brain, these pain relieving chemicals are too large to pass from the blood to the brain. So now research is being done on endocannabinoids. Say that word fast 10 times. Endocannabinoids is another naturally occurring neurochemical in the body which has been found to cause pleasure. The jury is still out as to whether or not this chemical causes a runner’s high. If you want to read in more detail, check these links out:
“Yes, Running can make You High”
“Phys Ed: What Really Causes Runners High?”
As for me, after combing though some articles about runner’s high, it doesn’t matter whether or not runner’s high really exists. Sure I’ll continue learning about my body, but let the scientists duke out the runner’s high debate. I’ll run to challenge my body; to live better mentally and physically; and, to celebrate personal achievements.
On another note:
We met at the Children’s Home yesterday. The printed material is in final draft and we are just waiting for the school to sign off on the paperwork to use their property. All-in-all, everything is on track and we are pleased.
After a runner’s low on Sunday, the mid-week runs were a charm. I completed speed work on the track on Tuesday, followed by a 6 mile tempo run today. I got out early this morning before the nasty sun peeked from the horizon. I did the 6 mile tempo in 42:45 with the last mile in 6:53. Both runs were excellent in the new Saucony Kinvaras.

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