About 5 miles into my 7-mile run on last Saturday, I started to get a weird feeling. I felt like I was out of my body, like I wanted to run faster and I almost felt giddy. At first I got concerned because it was a pretty hot morning and I thought I might be dehydrated. After I finished my run I felt an immediate rush of energy and euphoria and it was then that it clicked for me- I was experiencing runner’s high.
Runner’s high is a phenomenon most long distance runner’s and endurance athletes say they experience during or after a tough workout. I had always heard other runners talk about it but never experienced it for myself until last Saturday. For a long time, doctors and scientists dismissed runner’s high as an actual medical phenomenon because they couldn’t figure out how to prove it. Before I became a serious runner I also didn’t completely believe in runner’s high. But now I’m a believer.
After my run, I took to the Internet to find answers. Is runner’s high a real thing? Are we actually getting a boost of energy after certain miles? Or, are we all that obsessed with running that we convince ourselves we’re not tired? Turns out, runner’s high is no myth.
According to a 2008 New York Times article, researchers in Germany proved “runner’s high” to be true through the use of new neuroscience medical technology. Researchers examined a handful of distance runners to see if the phenomenon was an actual medical process. Using PET scans combined with a chemical that highlights the presence of endorphins in the brain, researchers found endorphins flood the brain during and after a long run.
Not only does runner’s high produce a sense of euphoria for the runner, it can also increase resistance to pain sensors. When a runner goes out for a long distance run, it is inevitable they will put their body under stress and possibly pain. However, according to a study from Lehigh University, a runner’s “pain thresholds tend to increase directly following exercise such as a long-distance run and their moods are often elevated.”
Endorphins released to produce a runner’s high are stimulated by duration and intensity, according to an article on Shape.com. The article says most people need to run at least 20 minutes before they feel the benefits of a runner’s high. Increasing intensity during runs, or adding a tempo run to a weekly workout can help a runner achieve a runner’s high.
So it turns out runner’s high is real. However, it’s important to not let your brain get clouded by this sense of euphoria. Continue to listen to your body, what your legs are telling you, and as always, if you’re in pain, take a break. But until then, keep on running and soak in that runner’s high!