Officer Thorny: Do you know how fast you were going back there? College Boy 1: Umm…65? Officer Thorny: …63. College Boy 1: But…isn’t the speed limit 65? Officer Thorny: Yes, it is. [Pause]
College Boy 3: I’m freakin’ out, man! Officer Rabbit: Yes, you are freaking out…man.
–Opening scene of Super Troopers (2001)
Do you want to get high, so high
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Last March I ate a half marathon for lunch. At least, that’s the way I put it on my various social networks’ statuses. Obviously one cannot literally eat a half marathon, but I just as well could have said that I had smoked a half marathon because despite fighting a raging head cold, I spent the rest of that day and a better part of the following day on a high that I thought one could only achieve through, er, pharmaceuticals or love. I felt great. I don’t mean “walking around with a general sense satisfaction” great, no, I’m talking, Tony the Tiger, I…felt…GRRRRRREAT! All of this due to a midday run that just happened to turn itself into a half-marathon.
By no means was it the farthest of runs; I had just done a slow rolling 18 miler with my buddy Mike a week and half before. Nor was it the fastest of runs either; I had flown through an 8 miler just two days earlier at a 7 minute per mile clip. It just happened to be one of those runs that hit that sweet spot (~7:45 pace for me at the time) – one that anybody who has been running for a certain amount of time eventually hits and then, like a love-sick teenager or a junkie, spends the rest of their time trying to re-create.
Personally, I love the runner’s high. You don’t get your heart-broken like the teenager nor do you end up ravaging your body like the junkie (quite the opposite really). Very few things feel better too – very few!
Just like any other potentially addictive thing though, you have to be careful with the runner’s high. I was still feeling great mentally the following night, but I could feel myself coming down. I wanted to pump up the endorphins again despite the fact that my head cold was now worse and had spread to my chest. The wife looked at me like I was crazy when I put on the shorts and began to head downstairs to run for an hour or two. I could hardly breathe and my eyes and nose were running like Niagara Falls. I just wanted a fix. I was also convinced that a run would cure my ailments. As I walked downstairs however, I had a moment of clarity and realized that rest was probably what my body needed more than anything else. That’s not to say I didn’t take one more step down the stairs before I finally turned around and crawled into bed.
Even as I drifted off to sleep, I could still feel my feet nudging me to get up.
I’ve spent most of my life not understanding why gamblers continue to gamble or why drug addicts continue to destroy themselves. I have a mildly addictive personality, but when something looks like it might permanently hurt me or those around me, I tend to know when and how to say no. But that night on the stairs, I caught a glimpse, just a glimpse, of what happens with true addicts. I just wanted to feel the way I had felt the day before and running was the delivery system. Had I felt just a touch better, I may have continued down the stairs, to my detriment.
After my run that day, all of the worries that had been weighing me down simply did not seem so weighty anymore. Yes, they were still there, but I felt better equipped to tackle them. And to a degree, that’s the point isn’t it? Running can better equip you to deal with your daily crises. Imagine if we could get everyone to experience the runner’s high just once. Just imagine.