Is this what they call runners high?

For the last few weeks I’ve been putting a bit more effort into motivating myself to go out running. I’ve been trying to go a bit further or a bit faster each time I run. The last few times I’ve been, I’ve taken the same route. It’s just over 4 miles and each time I’ve done it, I’ve managed to go nearly a minute quicker than the last time. 

Inspired by that, last night I decided to try to go a little bit further. I had a route in mind that incorporated an absolute killer of a hill. The hill was about 15 minutes into the run and it took me  about 10 minutes to run up it. There were then a few other hills but none that steep or long. I always take a similar route that incorporates a hill and I always know that from a particular pub at the top of town, the rest of my run will all be downhill or on the flat. 

So at that point in my run last night after the extra distance and the murderous hill, I subconsciously picked up speed in celebration of being over the worst of it. Being a Saturday night, I ran past all the drunken loons in town. This raised my mood a bit more as I considered the fact that, not only could I take the moral high ground about being out for a run, I could also be quite pleased with myself that it was over 18 months since I was last a drunken loon myself. That’s not to say I’m t-total, heaven forbid, but it’s a good while since I’ve been absolutely rat arsed and made an idiot of myself. 

So, with all these self-righteous thoughts whizzing through my head, I tanked it along the flat road and started to run the last downward straight towards home. Then, against my better judgement, a really strange thing happened. It slowly dawned on me that not only was I quite pleased with myself for running, happy to have made it up the hill without collapsing and delighted to be on the home straight, there was something more… I was actually enjoying myself. I was out for a run, on my own, and, for just an instant, I was having fun. 

I managed to hold on to that feeling all the way home, finishing the run to see that I’d run 5.99 miles in 55 minutes. Still pretty slow, nowhere near back to the speed I was doing before I had the baby, but not too bad either. 

Two things entered my mind during that strange instant of running-induced euphoria. Firstly, I thought of Christopher McDougall’s fabulous, awesome, inspiring book Born to Run. He talks in the book about the realisation that running, long distance, ultra marathon, endurance-type running no less, is in fact what we have evolved to do. He also mentions feeling that his running had suddenly got better when, one day he realised he was enjoying it and wanted to keep going. In his case, he ended up running a lot further than he intended to do that day. Sadly in my case, I knew there was a nice glass of red waiting for me at home so my spontaneous ultra-marathon will have to wait for another day. 

The other thing that crossed my mind when I realised that running was momentarily fun was the phrase “runners high”. I thought about Rosie Swale-Pope and her Little Run Around the World (another amazing running book) and all the adventures that running had led to for her. Was this my runners high? That little moment of enjoyment? Will it happen again? I hope so. I would love to want to go running, I’d love to find that special spark that amazing people like Rosie Swale-Pope and the ultra-marathoners seem to possess.

Have you experienced runners high? What was it like for you and did it last? 



  1. Running Librarian
    March 18, 2013 / 1:23 am

    I don’t think I have ever had a runners high..maybe someday though

    • Natalie Ray
      March 18, 2013 / 3:27 pm

      With retrospect I’m not sure this was it… a few people have mentioned quite a profound experience of peace and oneness… I think mine was more a “bloody hell I’m quite enjoying this” sort of experience!

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