Saturday, January 08, 2005

Understanding the Runner's High

I’m a big fan of the runner’s high. For me, the euphoric feeling is unmistakable (and usually around mile 8), which is why I’ve always been confused by coaches and medical experts saying that the “runner’s high doesn’t exist”. If that’s true, then why are we all as giddy as school girls after our weekly long run? Is it really all in your head, or is there a chemical interaction that can explain it? I did some research on the subject just to make sure I wasn’t crazy and was surprised to find some recent studies that may have found the chemical link.

What Is The Experience of The Runner’s High?

For those of you unfamiliar with the runner’s high, I would encourage you to seek it out as part of your training. It’s a mental state of relaxation partnered with a mild pain cessation that occurs after 60-90 minutes of steady exercise. I find it truly euphoric, setting me in a state of eternal optimism that can last hours after a run. It’s not exactly a “drunk” effect, although it does make it a bit more difficult to remember to eat/drink/take the next turn (remember – always carry a map!). I would equate it to two Red Bulls and vodka, three ibuprofen, plus a $50 winning Lotto ticket in your pocket. ;oP Definitely not to be confused with bonking (when your glycogen has been depleted due to not keeping up your calorie intake), which is more like a half bottle of Jack Daniels when you have the flu, complete with blacking out to the mantra of “oh God, please kill me now”. I didn’t experience the runner’s high until about 5-6 long runs (unlike bonking, which I hit on day two), so give it some time.

The first time you experience the runner’s high, it can be a bit alarming. At first it feels like that mild head rush I associate with going anaerobic, but instead of fading, it builds over the next 5-10 minutes. I feared this "build" the first couple of times, wondering if I my water intake, electrolytes, or calories were out of balance. After realizing it consistently faded away, I convinced myself it was just a “wall” you had to push through when you depleted your initial glycogen levels, since 1200 calories occured in about 90 minutes for me, and I thought that was an average glycogen level for somebody my age.

I noticed that when I hit this state, my tempo runs became very even, even though I was spending more time looking around than looking at my watch. Everything had a natural rhythm to it - my footsteps, the sound of the wind running past my ears...even the trees and hills around me seemed to flow together. It was a wonderful meditative state. Before I knew it, I was longing to run 8-10 miles every day to “break on through to the other side” to find that familiar state. Hello, addiction!

Science Casts It’s Vote – It’s Like Smoking Pot!

For the majority of the last two decades, scientists have struggled with defining the chemical reaction associated with the runner’s high. It was largely believed that the sensation was caused by endorphins, natural opiates in the body that are produced after trauma such as running for long periods of time. Just one problem – endorphins are too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier, making it impossible for this chemical reaction to be the sole cause. But in early 2004, Dr. Daniele Piomelli (UC Irvine) and Dr. Arne Deitrich (University of Beirut and Georgia Institute of Technology, also a marathoner) found another possibility – anandamide, a natural chemical that stimulates the brain in the same way marijuana does.

[warning – I am no PhD, so what follows is my dumbed-down version of a ton of great research done by real docs; it probably doesn't help that I've already gone on my long run this morning]

Anandamide (conveniently named after the Sanskrit word for “bliss”) is a neurotransmitter produced in our brain that activates the CB(1) receptor, the same chemical receptor that is triggered by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. Oddly enough, it was the study of the effects of marijuana that led to the discovery of the CB(1) receptor (thank you, stoners!). But one part was confusing - the body doesn’t create receptors that don’t have natural internal triggers (and marijuana being an external trigger), so there had to be a natural internal trigger somewhere. Thus the search began for the natural chemical that stimulated CB(1), which in turn led to the discovery on anandamide in 1992.

Piomelli and Deitrich, looking for the runner’s high connection, performed a study in early 2004 with two dozen college students who ran or bicycled for 40 minutes at 76 percent of their max heart rate, and then had blood samples drawn immediately after exercising. The results showed that both the runners and bicyclists had 80% more anandamide in their blood after exercising, with the greatest increase among the runners. They also reported physical feelings similar to marijuana use, such as relaxation, regulated mood, and increased appetite. Here’s the biggest kicker - tempo running produced the most anandamide of all exercise! Although more studying is required to really nail this down, it is clearly a big breakthrough on understanding the runner’s high.

On a side note, it also turns out that chocolate has small amounts of anandamide in it (Dr. Emmanuelle di Tomaso, 1996) as well as the ability to increase serotonin levels, both of which help regulate mood (ie, make you feel good). So, run every day and eat lots of chocolate to feel good? Me like!

Side Effects of Anandamide Use?

There is some supposition about whether the harmful side effects of THC (short term memory loss, low sperm count, reduced learning capabilities in youth, etc.) are also present in the natural stimulation of CB(1) from anandamide. There hasn’t been a lot of research in this area, so it’s hard to conclude anything definite. Most suggest that the heavy side effects of THC come from the fact that it is an “external agent”, causing the body to overcompensate, and that anandamide (as an internal agent) is more self-regulated. One example that is often cited is when marijuana users get a case of the “stupids” the day after smoking, whereas runners do not - with marijuana, the brain "overcompensates" to rebalance the body, and you have a different chemical effect. Running, you don't.

It's worth a bit more elaboration on the "overcompensation" effect, because it has a lot to do with why you feel "high" in the first place. The CB(1) receptor can trigger how your short-term memory works, and adjust it as needed. When the CB(1) receptor is triggered, the brain uses less “memory cache” - meaning you process feedback in little chunks and quickly move onto the next. This is a similar effect to what happens when your body goes into "fight or flight" mode - it adapts to get more data from its surroundings. This is why everything seems so new and exciting when you are “high” with marijuana. The “stupids” that marijuana users feel the next day is the body overcompensating and creating a memory cache large enough to have you staring into space for minutes at a time. The ability to trigger this memory is also one of the reasons both anandamide and THC are being investigated for use in treating Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia.

Conclusion

So it looks like we’re not all crazy, and there is a scientific rationale for the runner’s high. Well, a theory anyway. It doesn't say much about that spiritual connection I feel when running through the forest (or a good piece of chocolate for that matter). But it might help explain why I REALLY feel great about 80-90 minutes into my run, and why I want to do it every day.

So go run. Eat more cholocate. And the next time you think about dissing that group of stoners smoking out in the park, remember that you have more in common with them than you think. ;o)

Isn’t research fun?

Have a good New Years, and happy running in 2005!

SD

P.S. - Be sure to also check out subsequent research I found here and here.

77 comments:

  1. Holy crap, dude. You have way too much time on your hands! So when is the "Pepsi challenge" coming where you find the equation "x joints = y miles"? Ha!

    - Charlie1

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  2. Good post. Keep them coming! -- Jennifer T --

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  3. I normally hit a runner's high around eight or nine miles into a run. That's when I finally get the sense that I'm doing something. It's the mystical feeling that you can run forever, without borders -- psychological or physical. I will also encounter spontaneous runner's high -- it may be triggered by something as subtle as a sudden shift in temperature, or it may result from an epic moment such as traversing a razor's-edge ridge at 13,000 feet as storm clouds bubble on the horizon.

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  4. You can also hallucinate when running ultra's. Check out http://www.badwaterultra.com/stories/2003/2003mojica.html for a study done on ultra runner's at the 135-mile Badwater Ultra.

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  5. Here's a press release on chocolate that I thought was interesting, in that it promotes anandamide as the "bliss chemical".

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  6. Scott - thank you for this article. this was the fastest homework assignment I ever did. I can use this, right? Since your copyright says "use it?" no charge?!?

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  7. I'm glad I could be of help, but unfortunately you need to cite me and the URL of the blog in order to be in line with copyright. So if you copy and cite yourself, you're in violation (not to mention in a bit of trouble with your teacher, I'm sure).

    But you see the links - follow them up and write your own story. If you have some new insights, please do come back and post them.

    Thanks,

    SD

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  8. The original isolation of the anandamide key and receptor was made by Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam in 1992.

    Also, the natural anandamide that occurs in the body is much more fragile than the THC version, which is why it doesn't last as long.

    If you really want to trip out, check out the research at KUMC that showed that anandamide is a key communicator between a mother and embryo, and is one of the first chemical communications a mother delivers. Gives whole new meaning to "bliss of the womb"! But it also shows why mothers smoking pot can totally mess up their kids from day 1.

    Rey

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  9. While I’ve often "got high" during the middle stages of my longer runs and have heard many other runners describe similar experiences, I’ve noted it also almost always happens to me in the cooldown phases of hill repeat sessions or speed workouts -- especially if I’ve done the workout correctly and don’t end the last interval or repeat exhausted. Today's high following a speed workout stayed with me for most of the last mile, followed me back to my car and home into my shower, and even hung around as I was shaving. Trippin’!

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  10. WOW - a great reason for a someone to stop doping and start running. hmm ;-)

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  11. Sometimes I bring my zeppelin with me on trail runs and sneak a few tokes midway on my trail run. Talk about a runner's high :)

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  12. Runner's high is nothing to scoff at. It is a living and breathing thing, something you are rewarded with for slogging through the first several painful miles. why are the first few miles so bloody painful. I'm just a regular runner with one season of tris under my belt, but my favorite part of training is always, without question, my trail runs. corny as it sounds, I never feel more free, open and zen.

    In trail shoes we trust....

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  13. Benjamin Whitaker3/06/2006 10:23:00 AM

    This is the best "runner" analysis of this topic that I have found and I've been reading them for a while!

    As a new runner (two weeks) I hit my first runner's high at 5 miles, and it is VERY ADDICTIVE.

    Also, eat dark chocolate for the best effect on seratonin and amino acid levels. The milk in milk chocolate bonds with the amino acids making them useless to turn the glycogen in your liver back to glucose, your fuel for those long runs! But like most things, don't overdo the calories in any kind of chocolate.

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  14. Runners high must cause a case of the stupids, there is NO, 0, zip, zilch, doughnut, Evidence that smoking pot harms babbies, in fact they "Normaly scorce above average in thier APGAR Tests", and you may actually scare other people from running if they are early enough into the pregnancy, which is safe btw.

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  15. Hi Scott,
    I was trying to get some info on the runner's high, so I just read the 1st 4 paragraphs of your blog and let me tell you that was enough for me! WOW! You have just motivated me to run longer and further now!
    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

    Gotta go run now!

    Julie :)

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  16. Hey-This is good stuff, and very encouraging to read...not only very informational, but you have a gift for writing. You keep the reader smiling and interested!

    I am a Christian who believes in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and strength and self control through the Holy Spirit. I always associate the ability to mentally break away from the body and experience the high, as God completely taking over, because I don't see any way that I myself would ever be able to run as far as I do without that. In fact, I always wanted to be a long distance runner, but until I asked Jesus into my heart I never had his power to call on for strength. The Bible teaches that if we accept Jesus into us, then the Holy Spirit lives in us and we are able to experience awesome things like miraculous healings, speaking in tongues, prophecy, and deliverence from satan so why not something so simple as strength for a good long run to glorify God. I also believe that when I run I come into God's presence. It's like fasting...when your physical body isn't getting what it needs you automatically go into spirit mode where that is what is being called on to sustain. We (anyone who believes in living for Jesus Christ) know that we can't rely on our emotions or feelings, but on the biblical promises and holiness of God. Which means that we don't don't do anything just because it "feels good". We should be strong and fight the urges of flesh...die to the body, and live in the Spirit of Christ Jesus...running is a great way to practice this...it's a total test of the mind/spirit/body relationship. If anyone has fasted they know that a runner's high is a similar experience.... getting a "spiritual high" where thoughts are clear and you feel such peace because as you deny your physical body the Holy Spirit intervines for your physical pain or need.

    These are my thoughts and experiences.

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  17. Here's a link to study exploring if cannabis use CAUSES schizophrenia. Very interesting.

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  18. Awesome post...I love the runner's high. That explains why I love running so much. Hopefully I can get back to it soon and recover from this injury!

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  19. Last night at the gym I experienced a runners high like I have never experienced in my life. I was at the 30 minute mark of a 45 minute elliptical cross training program; the real hilly part with up there resistance. I shut my eyes and literally felt like I transcended myself. My heart was at 180/minute, my legs felt like jello, and the sweat was flying in every direction. It was like I was in so much agony that my mind HAD to leave. I was the only thing in the universe. Everything was in place. When I opened my eyes the gym was filled with a glowing light. And (this is weird as shit) there was a short little asian dude doing a seated chest press about 15 feet away and we locked eyes...it was like he felt it too. He had been throwing me chi (energy) with each one of his reps and I had been sending it back to him. I think I was in the Zone.

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  20. For those wondering if it's possible to overdose on THC, here's a great article.

    Quote:

    "DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young found that a lethal dose of marijuana would require an adult to smoke 1,500 pounds of cannabis in 15 minutes. That would mean absorbing more than 75 pounds of pure THC in the smoke."

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  21. I get a runners high too usually mile 8 and another at 16. Nothing unusual there, but I thought I must be the only one out there as I often (not always) like to eat a hash cake before I start running (I gave up smoking two years ago I reckoned it hurt my lungs too much.) The highs come all the same just better, my friends both runners and smokers think I'm nuts! The surroundings have a big impact on the effect I find, like many of you, a cool breeze or the beauty of a sunset, or sunlight through the trees. Adverse conditions like a thunderstorm or the challenge of a hill can set it off too.

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  22. I hit runner's high at about mile 6-8, but if I run a steady 3 miles and then dramatically increase my speed, i'll get a high within 3 minutes that will last as long as I keep my speed up.
    Crazy feeling...what an addiction huh? But I guess any addiction that gives you a 6 pack and a nice behind is one worth sticking to haha!

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  23. I have actually had a runners high in a race once which is really wierd because I usually don't get them until late in a distance run that i am cruising comfortably. It was the most comfortable 8k of my life. I am not saying i didn't feel any pain, but compared to a normal race I could drive hard without really feeling a ton of strain on the body. I felt like everyone around me was working so hard and I was feeling smooth and good. I negative split that race and finished with one of my better races of the season.

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  24. A very good article, but i do find that runners high seems to kick in after a certain percentage of the run undertaken, approx for me around 35%, assuming the run is of a good distance.
    Hence, if im running a half marathon the brain seems to know, and from about 4 miles onwards ill be in a state of euphoria, and seemingly high levels of mental concentration, and physical enjoyment.
    Yet during full marathons I find this state may not occur till more nearer 9 miles, which would be take me about 50 mins on recent performances. Therefore am I experiencing this prematurely?

    Ps, it goes after about 80% of the run, and from there its just pain!

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  25. great comment

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  26. Well I've smoked a lot of pot in my time and I just started to run. I'll let you know if it's the same :-)

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  27. I was a heavy dope user for over 15 years, and started running when I gave up dope 3 years ago. I used to do a lot of cycling stoned, and the feeling I'd get on a intense cycle wasted, was very similar to the high I can get on a run. The difference for me is that the high from dope has some negatives, such paranoia, negative mood swings etc runners high is an entirely positive experience!

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  28. Explain's our President's obsession with running/cycling. He substituted New Balance for the bottle and the straw.

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  29. awesome article ..
    I always thought runners high is something that only marathoners experience after 15 miles or so ..
    but this article and comments make me want to increase my 3 mile runs to 6 or 7. ..

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  30. I recently bought myself a set of ankle weights: 5 pounds for each leg. Last Sunday, I tried them out for the first time. I used to walk the three miles to town (downhill some 900 feet in elevation) and back, just to go to the Post Office, because I couldn't afford a car and the Pony Express don't come this far out in the sticks.

    Anyway, it normally took me 45 minutes to walk into town and 50 minutes to walk back home.

    I didn't time myself Sunday, but I'm here to tell you that I got runner's high without running and it was that first time it ever happened to me! I just climbed 900 feet over three miles, most of it in the first mile, and that's about where I started brainstorming.

    Anybody want to come climb my hill with me and see if you can keep up with (or maybe even without) 5 pounds strapped to each ankle?

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  31. Does anyone out there know if you can get a similar "swimmer's high", and about how many laps it would take?

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  32. My runners high is very different. I run on average quite a short distance about 4 to 4and a half miles 5 or 6 times a week. I have experienced pleasure a weird sensation while running longer distances associated primarily with almost not feeling myself touch the ground, and a pleasnet numbness that made me want to go faster. However my real addiction to running comes from when I purposely run the last 2 and a half miles of my run fast, to the point that when I finish I know I am feeling exerted. Now If I finish at speed (which I know isent that great), the moment when I stop and catch my breath is like an orgasm. I feel incredible loose relaxed and clam. This busts stress and my bodys high usually lasts until around 4pm when I feel like crap. The main problem is that if I don’t get my run in early before my days start then I feel groggy and unfocused.

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  33. Ahhhh I love it, I love it, I love it. Doesn't get any better for me.

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  34. Does anyone experience a low after running? I'm just getting into trail running, I go three times a week, and only go about 2.5-3 miles each time. The run itself is great. I feel fantastic during and after. After reading through these posts, I think I have experienced the pre-cursors to a full blown runners high (feeling in tune with my surroundings, letting my mind take over my body and just cut free, very positive sense of well-being and high optimisim). Anywhere fom 7-24 hours after the run, it fells like I hit a low. I run every other day and the days that I don't run are often the ones where I feel the most removed from the optimism I felt the day before. I'm often sluggish, unmotivated, and a bit listless. Just wondering if anyone else had experienced this in connection with running. If you have, any thoughts on countering it?

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  35. I don't have any real knowledge to offer. I would want to make sure you drinking what may seem like much more water than you should. That usually turns things around for me. Also, when I can avoid all the candy siting around the office I feel much better of course.

    As far the the runner high for me, it is the point in some runs that if I were offered the choice of stopping and still magically obtaining the benefit of the rest of my planned run, I would still take the run.

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  36. Kelly -

    That's great you can hit the trails so often. Your "lows" could be a number of things, some of which are positive.

    Are you making sure you take in some calories right after your run? It could be that the "low" you are feeling is just your body recovering and building muscle. I know I feel tired on my days off. But I found if I remember to eat/drink some calories right after a run, I don't feel quite as bad the next day. The 30 minutes after a run is the optimal time to recharge.

    Are you staying hydrated? Could be that your sluggishness is actually mild dehydration.

    Are you new to the sport? I found that in the first 4-5 months of training, I was always tired on my days off. I chalk it up to heavy recovery.

    Perhaps you are addicted to the outdoors? On my rest days, I often take a walk outside to recharge with nature. My day job keeps me cooped up inside, and that can bring me down on my days off.

    I'm not a medical expert, so I can't really comment on what might be going on. But I hope sharing my experience helps you narrow it down.

    Keep running!

    SD

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  37. Scott,
    Thank you for the research and excellent writeup! I found it inspiring just to read it. Now I'm even more eager for my next long run!
    Terry

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  38. Runner`s high is real ! I would compare it to ecstasy high but it`s without visual efects. Actually, the rushy feeling is even more intense. I am addicted to runnig more than i was addicted to ecstasy !

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  39. Hey, I am 14 And yesterday Went for the longest bikeride of my life. I must of went 20 miles with some downhill parts, and some uphill. Around 10 miles I became very tired, but then It all seemed to go away. I wasn't "stoned" But I was controlling my bikeriding. I was just riding for the hell of it. It was odd. Of course today I will try agian.

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  40. I decided to experiment for myself yesterday. After 1 hour of running on the treadmill, i experienced nothing...then after another 9 or 10 minutes, i suddenly felt pleasant tingling sensations within my brain. It was like receiving a back rub except i felt the pleasantness in my brain..near the lower back sides and upper middle sides. I loved it. I never felt anything like it before. It was very distinctive and had to be attributed to runners high. FYI -I do not consume drugs or alcohol or dark chocolate etc...it was the result of natural stimulation.

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  41. Thanks for posting this info

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  42. The first runner's high I ever had was at the 90 minute mark of the first time I ran 12 miles. It was a gorgeous San Francisco day and I happened to be crossing the Golden Gate Bridge toward the Presidio. I recall looking to my left at the city and I noticed how unbelievably blue the sky was. I thought, "hmm, is that 'azure' or is that 'cerulean?' and then I noticed how the water looked a bit better than usual. It was deep blue and wrinkled with silver splashes of sunlight. Something was definitely going on. Then it built into a state of detachment. I had heard of the runner's high and let it envelop me.

    While all my senses were working, I was unconcerned with the negative inputs (traffic noise, pain, etc). Every stride became effortless and I felt like each time a foot landed I had passed about 12 feet. I was bouncing along like the movies of the astronauts on the moon, or so it felt. Like another poster said, I felt like there were no limits to myself and I exulted in the feeling. I was unconcerned about time as everything in the universe seemed to be in synch. I can't really explain it... just a great feeling.

    Thanks for letting me share that! After a hiatus I am back into running and working my way back to that mini-nirvana!

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  43. I can't say how much I enjoyed your blog commentary on the parallels of your brain chemicals and natural & synthetic psychoactives. Your coherent logic and intelligent commentary really brought together these ideas. I am embracing physical exertion finally after a few years of shuffling through 'other means' of psychoactive stimulation to improve not only my state of mind, but also my state of being. Even the emotion of love can be recreated synthetically, let alone a runners high, so what does this mean? Basically you are an animal with the means of controlling all aspects of the vehicle you reside in aka your body. Yes, even your brain chemistry. The new excersize trend 'muscle confusion' defines how I feel your body benefits from experiences and challanges you subject it to: the more and varied you can handle the stronger and more balanced you become. Both a joint and a run are good for you. Both a marathon and a LSD trip are good for you. But if you ran marathons all year your body would suffer and if you burn joints all day long your brain can suffer. Now its time to practice what I preach. ;)

    You might find this link interesting, but dig around the links before you come to a conclusion.
    http://www.biopsychiatry.com/index.html

    One more thought, I found this exert from another of the comments particularly interesting, "...getting a "spiritual high" where thoughts are clear and you feel such peace because as you deny your physical body the Holy Spirit intervines for your physical pain or need."

    This seems to affirm that the release and inhibited re-uptake of the 'high chemicals', lets call them endorphins for understandings sake, can be uplifting in more than a physical sense. But to attribute them to a devine deity is simply masking the inspiring mystery with a psuedo-answer. If there is a ommnipotent god, I'm positive it would want us to discover all of the complexities of our verse namely our mediator for the information we intake and organize, our awesome brains. Supernatural religion is archaic in this age of debunking and scientific research, but real life experiences like a runners high shed light on the purpose for these amazing feelings.

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  44. Three weeks ago I went from inline skating 6 miles to doing marathon sessions (18-23 miles), much of it at high rates of speed (really cranking it out on the inclines)and found myself experiencing the most awesomely blissful high I've had since my cocaine fueled days at college. Wow! I now find myself waking up at 4 each morning, desperate for it to get light enough for me to hit the asphalt at 5:30. I've never been in such great shape in my life (and I used to be an internationally competitive athlete) I'm addicted! So the question begs to be asked - is this addiction all good? Or is there a downside to it? Addiction by its very definition is a negative thing. But, other than getting only 6 hours of sleep a night where I used to get 8 (only because of my early wake-ups), I can't see a downside.

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  45. How can people say this high does not exist? Too bad for them!

    What's of interest to me is the calmness, clarity of thought and placidity that sweep over me after a hard run. It can be so strong at times that I joke that a prescription should be required.

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  46. Really? A runner's high is possible? I run an average of 6 miles every day and have been doing it non stop for a while now.Even though the running dosen't make me complain anymore, I really havn't felt any of that pleasure thing yet. Any advice?

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  47. I get my best runner's highs when I don't have any destination to run to and don't wear a watch. I just run, and feel like I could go forever.

    It really is addicting. I need to take more days off so my body recover, but I have to have my fix or I just feel down all day.

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  48. I have read every post here with a great eagerness for proving that what I am feeling is real. I have been scoffed at for telling people I am feeling a runner's high at only 40 minute 5k runs (I am new to running, started 4 months ago), but I AM! Like some others here, I spent a good deal of the 80s getting high so I can clearly identify a physical/emotional change within myself. It am certain it is the music that sparks my high and it happens almost everytime I am out. Do I consider myself lucky? CERTAINLY!

    The music begins to pound with me totally in sync with it, I beam (yes, I think there may actually be rays emmiting from my face LOL) out a smile that must look so goofy to passerbys (twice I even bawled). I get a chill that creeps up over me, I feel my scalp bounce (weird huh?), suddenly I feel as though I am running like a Kenyan and I just boot it -- no pain just pounding. Then, seconds later its gone.

    I wonder if I get these highs after short distances because, to me, these short distances are so challenging to this overweight, 36 year old?? Or maybe because I am able to harness the feeling, welcome the feeling and not fear it, let it wash over me like those particularly satisfying times with my husband (oh, yes, equating the feeling to orgasms). Thank god this is an anonymous post!!

    Soooooo much better than the highs of the 80s because I can feel good about myself after....and no hangover!

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  49. Hi Scott.
    I've been running for about 10 years now and have experienced it myself. Your comparison to the red bull, vodka,ibuprofen, and lotto wins was a bit extreme though. Has it always been that strong of an experience or does it get better?

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  50. yay awesome great post thnx so much..screw marijuana ill get high the legal way haha...and yea the chocolate thing is probably true too. im gonna go run now

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  51. GREAT article.
    I'm 18 and a dude.
    A few weeks ago I woke up at 6 in the morning and couldn't sleep, so I decided to run, something I would NEVER consider doing usually. When I'd think of running I'd think of those horrid PE days and all the pain running came with. But I decided to give it try. I ran only about 1.5 miles, but it was a hard run. Keep in mind I was/still am in very bad shape when it comes to this kinda thing!

    By the last third of the mile and when I got home, I couldn't believe how good I felt. It wasn't just a "I feel gratified I did something hard" feeling, this was a very concrete, real expirience, which both physical and phyco/spiritual attributes.

    The two biggest things I felt were euphoria/happyness/bliss, and also extreme sedation, both on a mental and physical level.

    I felt so content/relaxed I couldn't believe it. The euphoria was bliss; unexplainable. I don't want to use the word "happy" because in my mind that also relates a certain tone of active excitement. I would say Peace is more like it.

    I also couldn't believe how sedated I felt. It was if I was really really tired, but the "tiredness" felt absolutely wonderful, without the added downside of needing/wanting to sleep. The "sleepyness" felt wonderful, but when I say sleepy I don't mean to suggest I wasn't alert. The complete opposite really. I felt increadibly alert and simply optomistic and "smiley" about everything. This lasted all morning and gently faded out throughout the day.

    Most people expirience "runners high" at around mile 8. I think I felt it so early because my body was not used to physical activity, and the chemicals that incude this high were released due to a very weak/low threshold. I am assuming the more I run, the longer it will take to reach the high.

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  52. It seems possible to get yourself into a 'euphoric' mindset after even a fairly short period of physical exertion. There is the feeling that you are functioning at a higher level than normal, which feels good, but only seems to last a relatively short time - while running. After a particularly extended period of exertion, such as a 75 mile ride, it seems as though the degree of relaxation and contentment that I experience is near endless...and it is a very prolonged feeling lasting even into the next day. I think that sometimes, these two feelings can be confused.

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  53. i get high and i run at the same time try that on for size bitches. just kidding about the bitches part but yeah it works for me just a couple of hits and im off for 15 miles. There is no greater feeling there is nothing that compares. i wonder what it does to my body though? I can't help but think i should be trying to do it without a substance. i would record record times in meets but i would feel like i was cheating parrallel to steriods. All this talk got me motivated going to get hiiiggghhhh

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  54. This is totally something that drugs cannot replicate. Great post.

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  55. Here's another interesting breakthrough about anandamide - turns out anandamide levels can predict a miscarriage with 94% accuracy. No long runs for pregnant women!

    SD

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  56. The highs i experience are indoors in group exercise classes, specifically step. They happen as soon as I am warmed up and are influenced by the music and choreography. They don't happen as predictably as some of the runners indicate, but they can occur multiple times in the same session and have made me a (happy) exercise addict.

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  57. I haven't been running very long but I still get the high. I used to run casually about 5 years ago and found it very addictive. I'd dream about it constantly. I find I get the high as long as I've gone past the burn. Can't wait to see what happens the further I get. I'm already hooked at mile 5!

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  58. lol I used to be a huge pothead and recently quit (as a matter of fact I got the link to this article from a pot website lol). I also like to work out, and reading about this is almost making me want to become a runner lol. I mostly lift weights though, I absolutely hate running... I jog for 20 minutes for cardio and I can barely stand that, I couldn't imagine going for 90 minutes. Now that I read this I'm wondering if maybe I should ditch the weightlifting and start training to become a distance runner...

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  59. I wish my runner's high would sustain itself. The only time i can get one is after running for a few miles I sprint balls out. But during my sprint my body is weightless and the run is effortless (which is nice after working hard) However, this feeling usually doesn't last past my sprints :( Nevertheless, it's a really cool feeling!

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  60. Hello there! I'm definitely a fan of your blog site. Have you ever read "Ultramarathon Man" by Dean Karnaze?
    That's probably a stupid question.
    Anyways, I'm currently in the process of establishing my own running blog website. If you have the time hopefully you could check it out and possibly provide me with a few pointers. Keep running!

    http://myrunninghigh.blogspot.com/

    If you're in DC I will be running the Marine Corp Marathon on October 26th. Take care!

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  61. The 2004 study apparently does not show the cognitive effects of runners high due to anandamide.

    A study conducted about 6 months ago in Germany finally confirmed the Runner's High - here's an article on it. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/27/health/nutrition/27best.html

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  62. I seem to get a runners high around the 6th mile of a 9 mile race. Music and spectators always help too. I love the feeling!!

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  63. Hey Scott, I just ran across this post and would like to link to it from my blog, www.saturdaymorningzen.com. Would you give me permission for that?

    thanks,
    Lara

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  64. These comments are really funny. Anybody get the giggles from running?

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  65. It is pretty amazing to read about everything you are accomplishing. I want to experience a runner's high.

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  66. OMG, you totally know what I'm talking about! People think I'm weird but that high you get after running is not the same as strength training or other aerobic activity (for me at least). I can only achieve that high after I've ran 11 or more miles. Thank for blogging this:)
    http://fitness2go4women.blogspot.com/

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  67. Really great post. Interesting how the endurance high seems to require progressively higher dosages as one gets fitter.

    Also, in my own subjective experience (through cycling), I get the high when I exercise at a fast aerobic pace, but not so much when I'm going at 'sub-puke' pace -- a case of stress hormones vs feel-good hormones maybe?

    Great blog!

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  68. That was a great read. The next time my wife complains I'm running too long/too often I can tell her it's not my fault, I'm addicted to anandamide. Sooner or later someone will figure out how to make it in a pill form and we'll have a bunch of stoners sitting around with a runner's high.

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  69. I learn more in the post...as runner i need to know those basic things...:D

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  70. this is a fantastic topic to bring up with people who are sedentary and maybe use drugs to inhibit their activities.... and the connection is logically profound...

    Ron

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  71. Hi there Scott. I too saw about the article in the NY Times that you've picked up on. I blog about sport psychology in relation to running and athletics and have been researching runners high for the past 3 years.
    Based on this I wrote a response on endorphin vs cannbinoid hypothesis http://stuartholliday.blogspot.com/2011/02/what-happens-to-your-brain-during.html

    I'm hoping to get a response from the professor behind the most convincing endorphin research and update what I've put previously.
    Great blog!

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  72. Hey Scott. I'm "training" some friends of mine and one just experienced the runner's high and asked me about it. I was doing a little research and came across your blog. THE BEST BLOG EVER! Awesome article my friend. Thanks.

    Are you running the Eugene marathon in May?

    Bobby Lee (The Korean Pre)

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  73. I found your blog post on the Runner's High just after I'd finished writing one myself. Yours in so well informed, thank you. All I could do is to say how it makes me feel and why running and cycling has made all the difference for me. However, I can really identify with what you say.

    In fact it's the difference between quitting my job in criminal justice and keeping it.

    You're very welcome to take a look.

    Scott, thanks again.

    Doug.
    http://ramblingsofdoug.blogspot.com/2011/05/what-is-runners-high.html

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  74. I like your plan, more chocolate and more running jibes well with me!!! Sadly I have few lbs to lose right now so better leave the choc out for a while.

    I've experienced runners high a few times and sometimes it's quite mild (could just be a second wind I guess, but is that also a runners high?) and sometimes it's euphoric.

    Interesting to read some possible science behind it all.

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  75. If you really want to trip out, check out the research at KUMC that showed that anandamide is a key communicator between a mother and embryo, and is one of the first chemical communications a mother delivers.

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