An Unadvised Marathon and The Elusive Runners High — Adventure Conscious

AdventureConscious.com
5 min readMar 19, 2023

This story is originally from https://adventureconscious.com/an-unadvised-marathon-and-the-elusive-runners-high/

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Runner’s high is real, incredible and everyone should seek out this natural euphoria.

Not me… Credit: Pexels

First, let me set some context.

I’m writing this immediately after finishing a run. My brain is a scramble of euphoria and chaotic thoughts. I am doing my best to put pen to paper and turn my elation into something tangible and comprehensible before the ecstasy of this run wears off and I am left grasping at memories and craving the next hit.

To give you an idea of my running C.V., I have been what I suppose I would call “a runner” (*cringes*) on and off for just shy of a decade. During this time I have gone through periods without running for several months, sprinkled with short bursts of intense training for 2 half marathons and a triathlon. However, most of the time I have been a casual average runner.

The prestigious marathon has always been a gold standard which I have forever revered. Earlier this year I decided to turn this dream into a reality and booked myself on to my first-ever marathon. Rather naively, I decided to choose the Luxembourg Night Marathon (a notoriously hilly event which takes place at, well, night…).

Elevation Profile of Luxembourg Night Marathon.

So far the training has been slow and hard going. I’ve been inconsistent with my running (see graph below) and when I do run I am plagued with aches, cramps and pains. Eventually, I resorted to seeing a physiotherapist due to some back pain.

Training records from last few weeks. Total distances (km) for the week are shown in bold at the top of each bar.

The physiotherapist spent 30 minutes quietly poking and prodding me thoughtfully. After some time she stopped, looked up at me and explained, rather brutally, that my back pain was a result of “tight and weak legs” — ouch. She explained that I should take a break from running to focus on physiotherapy and could return to the sport in between 3–12 months.

When I explained that I had booked a marathon in 3 months’ time she replied that undertaking this marathon would be entirely against her professional advice and she does not recommend it. I politely replied that I appreciated this advice, but I had committed to this marathon and felt it a necessity that I carry my plan through.

I am conscious that this is foolish, irresponsible and perhaps slightly disrespectful to the guidance I had received. However, as a person who is hyper-aware of the ticking clock of life, it felt impossible to wait a whole year to reach this personal milestone. I would continue running in parallel with the physiotherapy until I reached a point where I really could run no more.

And so I have spent the last month pushing myself through some pretty tough training. Some runs have felt ok, others not so great. However, nearly all have been performed bandaged up with compression socks, knee braces, liberal amounts of vaseline and anything I can get my hands on that made me feel as if I wasn’t falling apart at the seams.

Again, not me running. Credit: Run Fat Boy Run (2007)

However, all this changed during my run this evening.

I had run into work in the morning, with a heavy bag and stiff, tired limbs. Instantly my body resisted. My shins blew up and felt like they were going to explode with every slap of the pavement. My knees were experiencing a sharp jarring feeling with every step. And my hips were so tight that they felt as if they hadn’t been used in 30 years.

In short, it was a classic bad run

When the workday ended, I toyed with the idea of running home too. I do not usually run twice in one day, but the situation felt ideal so I thought I’d go for it.

I had reduced my bag weight to empty and instantly I felt as if I was gliding through the air. Each stride felt strong and mindful. With each step, I experienced being in the air for a disproportionate amount of time. I jogged along, listening to a podcast, feeling strong, under control and as if I could keep going endlessly.

However, it wasn’t until I checked my distance for the first time did the feeling really started to start to pulse through me. Looking down at my phone, I had almost accidentally, and without noticing, burnt through 9km — about double the distance I had expected.

At this point, my headphones had run out of battery and my podcast was no longer playing, but this was hardly an issue with my newfound joy and surprise at my pace.

My focus was no longer on the external information trying to distract me from my run. My new focus was fully on the run itself.

Each stride felt like my muscles were having an amazing stretch after waking up from a blissful nap. I began to really notice the placement of my feet, the explosive power as I pushed off and the movement of my legs. I started to test the waters and increase my pace.

I was doing this almost with a boyish cheek, trying to push the boundaries of my newfound freedom, surely expecting that the new pace would begin to onset fatigue or breathlessness.

Not me… Credit: Pexels

With each increase in speed, I was shocked to find that my body could handle this new pace with surprising ease. This is when the euphoria really started to kick in. I could feel my face aching from smiling as I dashed through the streets, my eyes wide with amazement.

As I reached the final stretch I shifted gears and put all I could into a sprint finish, contracting my leg muscles with each stride, trying to squeeze the very last drop out of this unexpected euphoria.

It wasn’t until much later, as I was explaining this incredible experience, did my mind stumble over a phrase which had been forgotten from my memory. A phrase I had heard real runners use — “Runners high.

This, I thought, must be what they were referring to.

This is what it’s all about.

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Originally published at https://adventureconscious.com on March 19, 2023.

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