I often see runners get asked how can they run?
In the sporting community it usually comes from the cyclists and swimmers, and when these athletes switch to triathlon the one discipline that is sometimes the toughest for them to grasp is the dreaded run.
Pushing hard on the swim, or destroying the bike hoping one has made up enough time to hold the runners back on the run. No chance. The strong runner comes cruising by with ease, leaving you behind wondering what you did wrong. A multisport athlete that comes from a running background is often at a great advantage. I often tell people that a runner can learn to ride a bike but for a cyclist to switch to running is not so easy and it takes a lot of hard work and effort to get to a stage where you feel very comfortable.
I was fortunate to have quite a bit of swimming and running in my school days, but then for many years I let it slip away and switched my focus to weight lifting and then finally coming back to mountain biking, road cycling and then to triathlon.
My bike was always a strong leg and with all that leg power I was very confident to sit on the bike and smash the pedals for long periods of time, but once I neared transition I used to dread that run that lay ahead.
I knew it would be a hard slog and definitely not a cruise. No matter how much time I put into my competitors especially in the longer distance races they would just eat it back and some more leaving me feeling very frustrated.
I would hear a lot of talk from the running community about the runners high and I thought man you guys are smoking some awesome pipes because I could not imagine any such thing. I decided to make a conscious effort and switch all my core focus to running, reducing my cycling and swimming focus and seeing where it would lead me.
Day after day I would pound the tar, searching for something which in my mind was fictitious and only existed in the minds of the “Pipe Smokers”. Months went by and I was still battling through. Muscular legs and a muscular upper body didn’t help my runners frame and the conscious effort of becoming the runner was one of hard physical training, learning proper technique and training the gut with proper nutrition. More months went by and I was convinced that no such thing as the runners high existed and if it did exist why did I not experience it on the bike or the swim, why were these “runners” so special?
I built up speed, I built up distance and my running improved dramatically but that one single thing was still eluding me.
Two years later, on a Sunday morning I was headed out on a 25km training run, and all I could think about was my reasoning for the run was because I had to. I had some races coming up and needed the mileage. Understand one thing, running was still not enjoyable for me even though I was running well and it had improved drastically. I truly dreaded long runs, I found them tedious and boring and couldn’t wait to get to the finish to bank the session. It was in my mind a painful drag.
I headed out with some music to keep me company and at around 10km’s in I was thinking man still another 15km’s of darkness to go. I just kept pushing through, legs one in front of the other and trying to keep my focus on getting to the finish.
At around 15km’s I started to feel pretty okay and then as time went on I started to feel better. I wasn’t so much focused on the finish line anymore but the present.
Then suddenly it hit me, like a molecular nuclear explosion from absolutely nowhere. Extremely heightened senses, shivers in every single part of my body where sweat ran and my mind just completely drifted into a zone where I felt completely superhuman. My pace lifted my legs floated, and my mostly used frowning facial muscles which were always there during a run slowly eased off and put an extremely rare smile on my face, which seemed so ridiculous but there was no ways it was going anywhere it was there to stay. Complete elation and euphoria, the Runners High.
I finally became a member of the “Pipe Club” and never doubted them again. I wondered if this was a once off, or only under certain conditions. There are many articles on the subject and the physiology behind the euphoric conditions have been explained in many ways, but as runners who cares as long as its there we love it. It allows us to contemplate to strategize, to think to dream, to create, to destress and to smile its all encompassing and makes us feel alive.
Ten years later and I can honestly say this I experience the high every single time I run, it does not matter if its track, short or long, at some point in my workout that smile hits my face and every single thing around me disappears while I relish my own little piece of heaven even if it is for a short while.
My advice to anyone taking on running or switching their focus to running, keep turning over those legs, keep persisting and I can guarantee you that the pot of gold will eventually be waiting at the end of your rainbow.