Runner’s High? Or Runner’s Madness?

Posted by Filed Under: News and Opinion

runner_290.jpgRunner’s high? Doesn’t running have enough benefits without having to be an intoxicant?

Yes, runner’s high is back on the popular radar, thanks to a New York Times story touting the latest German research on the subject—which our own Nora of Complete Running had already scooped them on by eight days, so why are you wasting your time on that Times rag, I ask you?

The research was published in Cerebral Cortex—dang, I let my subscription run out, and I so enjoyed the centerfolds.

The authors inform us that “statistical parametric mapping (SPM2) was used for voxelwise analyses to determine relative changes in ligand binding after running and correlations of opioid binding with euphoria ratings.”
runner’s high
Come to think of it, my ligands have been binding lately, voxelwise.

One of the problems with the study of runner’s high is its definition. Certainly we all have had runs where we feel really, really good. Some may even feel euphoric. But, as anyone who has ever experienced or watched the 24th mile of a marathon can attest, runners can also become irrational and angry. Who writes about runner’s madness? (I smell a government research grant!)

I have never experienced a runner’s high. I have experienced a massive sugar and caffeine high while running, thanks to an overindulgent pre-race breakfast. I ran a huge PR in the half-marathon that day, with insane negative splits. Never could re-create it, though.

In any event, let’s not lay excessive pressure on people to feel euphoric while running. It’s well established you’ll feel great once you’re finished running, and that’s good enough for me.

Besides, everyone knows the real secret to runner’s high is the bananas.

About Mike Antonucci

I ran 6-minute miles when I was in the military, then tapered for 20 years. Two-time marathoner (3:43 PR), my next goal is to stay healthy enough to run another. There are literally thousands of people handing out running advice and serious tips. I prefer to focus on the humorous or odd facets of our shared obsession. Let's face it, running is funny.

  1. Mom On The Run on April 4th at 7:20 am

    I’m with you – I’ve never gotten a runner’s high during a run – but definitely have felt on top of the world after a good middle distance run.

  2. Mark on April 4th at 12:54 pm

    I’ve had runner’s high a few times. The best one lasted for about an hour and it was wondrous. I can honestly say it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I actually blogged about it a couple of years ago (will have to go find it).

    So, I’m not disagreeing with you since I am sure there are different intensities with runner’s high, but I will say that, in it’s intensist form, it’s a wild ride. 🙂

    Mark’s last blog post..dear Matt Mullenweg

  3. ScottD on April 4th at 5:04 pm

    Boy, I feel for ya. The runner’s high is the best part!

    I didn’t feel it for a while, but now it seems to kick in regularly around 80 minutes of medium intensity. I tried to describe it as “two Red Bulls and vodka, three ibuprofen, plus a $50 winning Lotto ticket in your pocket”. So maybe your caffeine/sugar wasn’t too far off. 😉


    ScottD’s last blog post..Tracking the Marathon Des Sables