Attaining the Runner’s High

That’s pretty high!

(Yes, I missed Tuesday Newsday this week…I didn’t have much of value to say. Marathon training starts this sunday, and that’s about it!)

When I first started this blog, I debated on a lot titles, a lot of names that would represent my idea and my passion. I REALLY wanted to just name it “Attaining the Runner’s High” but after talking it out with friends, it didn’t really give any clue to what the blog was about, hence why I went with Racing the States. But, if you’ve noticed, I kept “Attaining the Runner’s High” as my tag line (see, it IS up there at the top – you just now noticed it didn’t you??)! The funny thing is, after five months in the blogging world, I’ve never really talked about what my tag line means to me.

If I were to have named my blog “Attaining the Runner’s High,” I would have had the same project goal…and the name was in accordance because, to me, running a race in every state will be the ultimate runner’s high.

I remember when I finished my first half marathon. The feeling is almost indescribable. I felt so accomplished that I wanted to cry. Now, getting ready to start training for a marathon, just thinking about how I will feel in the end makes me want to cry!

I trained for months before my first half; and to be honest, I have no idea where the idea originated. It was probably similar to the way I get most of my goals – I usually wake up with an idea in my head, can’t stop thinking about it and then stop at nothing to achieve it. This has happened on multiple occasions, not just with projects or goals, but with random ideas so simple as wanting to get a piercing or a tattoo. As soon as the idea pops in my head, I can’t think of anything other than that.

Right now, there’s a couple things flowing through my head that I can’t stop thinking about to the point that it’s distracting. I wont talk about all of them, but one of them is this project: Running a race in every state. Sometimes I get so caught up in that thought process that I even starting thinking about after, and what I’ll do next (oh, I’ve got so many ideas!!) When I complete my goal, whenever that may be, I think it will be one of the greatest moments of my life – the ultimate runner’s high!!

But people talk about “the Runner’s High” in a few different ways.

The Actual Science Behind It (After all, I am a science major grad)

When I was in my last year of college, I lived with 4 boys. It was actually one of the best and most fun living situations I’ve been in – and I had been through a LOT of horrible roommates. Anyway, they were typical party boys and were plain and simple pot heads. One day, I was sitting in my room studying when my closest friend of the four comes barging in, all out of breath.

south park

“You wanna get highhhhh?”

Roommate:  “Whitney! Whitney! I get it! I get why you run! I FINALLY experienced a running high!” After I little more explanation, I found out that my roommate had ran all from a bar (of course); probably 2-3 miles from our house. Once he stopped running, he told me felt “high,” an actual euphoric feeling. However, he did declare that probably wont ever do that again, and will continue to smoke from his pipe.

But my roommate is not the only person that gets “high” from running. A lot of regular runner’s experience this phenomena quite often.  What happens is, when doing strenuous exercise, like running (but biking and other activities show the same effects) endorphins are released into the blood stream. These endorphins are also known as “endogenous opiod peptides;” aka morphine based amino acids. Some studies do show that these endorphins are too large of molecules to cross the barrier to the brain, so researchers did another study. They found another chemical called anandamide, which is found to produce relieving feelings and to ease pain. This chemical is natural and is also seen in the same stimulation as caused by THC from marijuana. It is produced in the brain and activates a certain receptor, the same one in fact that is triggered by THC. (The research was actually done in the opposite way I explained it. Scientists were doing a study on THC reactions, found the receptor, and THEN discovered the chemical anandamide. Later studies showed that this chemical was released during exercise).

Another perk of this anandamide is that is dilates blood vessels and the bronchioles in your lungs, thus allowing you to run longer. These “highs” from running can be addictive, however, it is shown in studies and from just speaking with runners, that it’s not every time you lace up your sneakers that you get a runner’s high. Some scientists even say that you do have to be pretty physically fit to reach the point of intensity where you can achieve a runner’s high, hence why its hard to get fat people to run…they may not ever reach the point of addiction.

So, there you have it, your science lesson for the day. There is potentially a real “runner’s high.”

The  Psychologic Effect

Other than there being actual scientific proof that there is a runner’s high, running tends to make people happy. I know that might sound crazy to non-runners (many of my non-running friends have been known to call me crazy), but anyone that calls themselves a runner, I think, would agree: Running makes us happy. It’s a stress reliever (partly due to the endorphins released). It keeps us in shape, and I don’t know about you, but I like being skinny, and I think running makes me look hot. Just sayin’. It gives me time to myself – sometimes I use the time to think/work through issues, but sometimes I use the time to think about nothing but my feet hitting the pavement, as a break from real life. Running is also the only thing that some of us, myself especially, are completely in control of. I can control how fast/far/frequently/hard, etc that I run. I can’t control a lot of other things in my life, but running is controllable. On that same note, running gives me a goal, something to put my mind on (like my project) to keep my from going crazy while I figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

All these things lead to a kind of psychologic running high.

The Overall Effect:

I love running. I really do. One of the best runner’s highs I have gotten was actually pretty recent during the Wild West Relay. Just being on the open road, in the middle of no where, open views of the mountains and farm lands, no one else on the road, no cars, no people…just me and my shoes on the gravel or asphalt…that feeling was pretty blissful.

My project is the ultimate runner’s high for me. Maybe your’s is a different goal. Maybe your runner’s high is just to get in shape. Whatever the reason, just run and get your runner’s high!


Articles I used for my research:  (Dear College professor, please don’t kill me for using wikipedia).

Understanding the Runner’s High (a blog article I found)

Runner’s High, by Amby Burfoot on Runner’s World Website

Why Ferrets Don’t Get Runner’s High (Yes, I actually read this. Interesting side note from this study: Humans (and dogs) have the ability to get a runner’s high built up over evolution. It’s said that in caveman days, when humans would run for hours to hunt and gather food, the release of anandamide would evolve over time to allow the cavemen to keep running by easing pain and soreness. Dogs, over time from wolf days (hehe) evolved similarly to hunt for long periods of time and have the ability to produce anandamide as well. However, it was found that ferrets do not. Since ferrets spend most of the days sleeping, they never needed anandamide to run for long periods of time.

3 thoughts on “Attaining the Runner’s High

  1. I TOTALLY noticed your tag line before you mentioned it!

    Truthfully, I had never experienced the runner’s high until this weekend. I’ve had happiness and gratitude, and pride in achieving goals, but I actually experienced a weird literal euphoria on my long run on Saturday. I was like, OHHHH THIS is what they’re talking about.

  2. Pingback: Racing The States Is 8 Years Old! | Racing & Wandering

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