Runner’s High

In honor of Eluid Kipchoge’s historical mark, I thought I would take some time and write about one of the best feelings in the world.

The path was shaded with tree cover as the sun hid behind the pines. In an attempt to avoid the sun’s kiss, I started my run early to get the most out of the cool weather. Fall was finally upon us as the humid Georgia weather contrasted with the deceivingly crisp morning. Assuring my watch synced for future performance updates, I started on my journey. Although I had run in this location time and time again, the added leaves made things look and feel different. I started to clear what was the hidden cement path as I sifted along. My footsteps were heavy as the rustling of the leaves overwhelmed my ears. My body was finally getting acclimated after several consecutive runs. Mileage was slowly building back up and muscle memory was settling in. In the back of my mind was the thought that today may just be the day.

One mile in, I made a deal with my body that the current pace would be great territory to settle into. Constantly checking my watch, I made sure to maintain what I discovered to be my comfort zone. I pitched my mental tent and started to turn the pages of my thoughts and reflect. Wins for the week came to mind as well as things to improve on. I made sure to solidify expectations of what the rest of the day would hold and revisited the goals I had set for myself. What was I going to specifically do today to get closer to them and was there a way if any to expedite the process? As I started to write down mental notes on the game plan moving forward, there was a figurative rustle in the bushes. I looked over to see what had stirred up in my mind this time. As I cautiously inched over to the bush, it shot out and perched itself on a branch just over my tent. It didn’t take long to realize that I had discovered a runner’s high. I fumbled to grab my tools out of my things while keeping an eye on the runner’s high in all it’s glory. It made eye contact before taking off into the depths of my mind. The hunt was on.

It can be hard to quantify the likelihood that you encounter a runner’s high. It is different for everyone. Although not fully known what exactly causes it to present itself, I imagine many factors like intensity, exercise duration, and even weather can come into play for the perfect hand dealt.  With that said, you don’t start every run in pursuit of the runner’s high. It finds you. And when it does, it is a call to action to see if you can catch it. 

My pace shifted from what was very comfortable to a more honest sort of run. There was a slight change in my breathing, and my legs started to move just a little faster. With my feet no longer dragging, a consistent up-down motion was felt. Over time, I became acclimated with this new standard and settled back into a new groove. My footsteps started to set the tone to some rhythmic breathing as I found my new stride.  At this point, I am still cognizant of the people I pass and events that may occur on my run, but I would have to think really hard and replay all the steps.

Meanwhile in my head, I still had line of sight of the runner’s high. I wasn’t even close enough to cast a net or anything. I picked up the pace and pieced together the best plan of attack. I had been in this position before and many times just lost the little devil with a quick turn into uncharted territory or eating dirt because of a root in my path. Getting in striking distance was all about focus. I knew this specific part of my mind like the back of my hand. I just had to outwit this elusive entity long enough to get my chance. Taking a quick, and risky, shortcut through the path less traveled. I found myself a few feet away. The runner’s high felt my presence as it let out a scream of terror. My time was coming.

By this point in the run, I had picked it up yet again and was noticeably faster. I found myself not checking my watch unless it buzzed indicating another mile. Things around me started to blend in with the backdrop of the trees. My heart rate jumped another notch as I started to feel as if I was losing contact with the ground. Pushing off on my toes, I felt every part of my leg contributing to getting farther faster. My arms started to pump and assist for the ideal knee lift. By this point, there was quite a bit of discomfort, but after some time in this state, I found myself locked in this gear. And it was here where the mental battle was coming to a head. Time was of the essence as I tuned back into the channels of my mind to see how everything ends.

I was on the heels of the runner’s high as I started to extend my net. It would take precision and bit of luck to capture this beast once and for all. I dropped everything else I had to free up some range of motion. “Swooosh!” I missed my target and slightly lost my balance dropping my net. Frustrated, I pushed on knowing that stopping now means I lose it. With the small sacrifice, I was able to recover. The runner’s high started to cut corners and dive into tight spaces, but I didn’t let this phase me. The fatigue was setting in as I knew I only had one more good shot. I pushed past the lactic acid pooling in my mental legs and lunged towards the runner’s high. I was able to grab it around its body. Jackpot. As the adrenaline left my system, the runner’s high started to calm down in my arms. I sat there and admonished just how beautiful it was. 

Back in reality, it felt almost as if I were floating. My legs went numb and the pain that I grew accustomed to melted into the ground with every step I took. It was a feeling of straight euphoria; a humming vibration between my ears. I no longer noticed my breathing and regardless of how fast I was moving, the pace just felt good. My surroundings were a blur as it felt as if I was going into and out of consciousness. Even with all of this, I felt more in control than ever. I felt as if I could run forever. But, I had reached my destination. I slowed to a stop to find my body was still catching up to my mind. It all happened so fast. 

After having more than enough time with the captured runner’s high, I knew it was time to let it go. It belonged out there where it could thrive and where I could only hope to get a chance to catch it once more. I slowly loosened my grasp and it sauntered away. Before leaving, it turned back around, made eye contact, and then with a slight nod takes off into the woods where it came. Although I wasn’t sure when I would see it next, I looked forward to the day. I mentally celebrated this victory for a short period of time knowing that tomorrow would bring new challenges and more opportunity.

“I don’t know where the limits are, but I would like to go there.” ~ Eliud Kipchoge


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