I’ve been running for about five years. That’s like minuscule in the grand scheme of running. The group of older guys who run regularly with the Indy Runners group have been lacing up since before I was born. In my five years I’ve heard about this thing, the runners high, from fellow runners and in articles I’ve read online. You get this feeling supposedly of flying, of harmony, of each step coming easily. You’re in this other worldly zone.
I’ve never been in that zone. I’ve had highs on a horse, on top of a mountain, in yoga, but never while running. This sport HURTS. It does not make me feel naturally high.
So why in the world do I run? To chase that high, because I’ve had glimpses of it. And because on Sunday I was there, I felt that runners high, and it was glorious.
Training for a marathon can almost kill a person. It doesn’t start badly. Midweek runs of 4 to 6 miles, weekend runs of around 10. Then you’re suddenly pumping out at least 30 miles a week … trying to squeeze one 8 mile run into a weekday and out sweating and pushing yourself for multiple hours and nearing 20 miles on the weekends. This is time consuming. It requires planning. It makes you want to eat everything in sight. After running 17 miles on a weekend your body hates you for two days. Muscles hurt, knees ache and pop, shoulders are tight, and feet groan at walking.
But my God, there is very little as satisfying as collapsing at the end of 17 miles and thinking, “I did it. I just pushed my body and my mind past the point I thought possible. Fuck yeah, bitches!” And it makes those eight pieces of turkey bacon that I scarf down feel guiltless and the foot rubs from my boyfriend feel well earned.
And then last Sunday it happened. The runners high. I caught it and was all up in it. And it makes all the painful miles worth it. Around mile 13 of 17 I suddenly felt like putting one foot in front of the other wasn’t hard at all. In fact I barely felt my feet touching the ground. The soccer fields and trees and cars around me disappeared. I only saw the road in front of me and I wanted to fly toward it, take it on. It’s hard to describe I guess, but it’s basically the complete opposite of how I feel when I am certain I can’t take one more step forward, when I wonder why the heck I even run because it’s so hard.
Today I set out to do 18 miles by myself, no company. I was nervous, but I had motivation—to chase that runners high. I didn’t find it this time, but I’m pretty sure it’ll come again. After all I still have seven more weeks of marathon training and a lifetime of running left.