Thursday, September 3, 2009

Runners High

It is the elusive state, the feeling that runners talk about as if they have reached the running shangrila. The state of feeling euphoric, invincible, with boundless energy and wild endorphens. It is the runners high. I have been there a few times and it is am amazing feeling.

During one particular race, with a hill in front of me, I noted how people around me were slowing, stopping to walk and struggling and I was experiencing my first real case of the runners high. I vaugley recall lauging aloud as I pushed it up the hill and saw I was approaching the six mile mark. I felt strong and happy and if I had enough energy to run for hours! But it didn't even last until the end of my race. It was there, in all its brilliant glory and then it was gone. It didn't leave me tired or depleted, but left me missing it, like a perfect running buddy who knows your exact pace and all the neuances of the journey. I wanted it back!

So what IS the runners high? For starters it isn't esxclusive to runners, it can affect anyone experiencing intense or high endurance workouts. Endorphens released during exercise serve as the brains natural opiates, triggering mood changes. For many years researchers were able to detect endorphines in the blood which could be a result of stress from exercise. They were unable to test to see if runners experienced a rush of endorphines to the brain.

The medical journal Cerebral Cortex confirms the runners high is not myth or delusion: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.

PET scans were used to compare the activity of endorphines in a runners brain before and after a long run and the endorphines were attaching themselves to the area's of the brain that dicated mood, specifically the limbic and prefontal area's. These two area's govern emotions such as euphoria, like when you get chills hearing a piece of music and romantic love. The larger the amount of endorphines, the greater the euphoria. Testament for people who LOVE to run. The love is real!

I heart running!!

More studies are being done on whether or not the state of "runners high" is a factor in pain tolerance and pain stimuli in runners, maybe the love of the run truely does over power pain. In the meantime, we know the love of the run is for real! And we know that a runners high can be right around the corner...have you experienced it? Post a comment and tell me about it!!

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