Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why I Run
Reason #5 - For The "Runners' High"

One of my biggest fears that I have as a medical professional who is also a runner is that one day I will be asked to stand in front of a large audience of my colleagues and defend my sport using clinical facts and published data. I can just imagine someone asking me “So, Dr. Laminator, can you clarify for us the risks/benefits of running a marathon on bone health versus other forms of exercise?” or “what makes you believe that we, as a species, are equipped to run such long distances?” or my favorite, “Isn’t it clinically proven that your risk of injury is directly proportional to the number of miles you run?”

To be honest, four years of medical school plus six years of residency/fellowship training did very little to prepare me to answer these types of questions. Maybe I dozed off the day they covered these topics in a conference I attended. Maybe I should have extensively researched the facts before I started running. I don’t know, but then again, it’s hard to assume that a list of clinical objective data or undisputable medical findings would do very much to convince the cynics in the audience.

I think if I were ever put in such a position where I was asked to advocate my sport to an audience of fellow doctors, I’d skip the medical jargon and esoteric factoids and concentrate instead on my own perspectives, observations, and theories about running. I’d tell them that I’m the happiest guy around when I run well and can be downright miserable when I miss a run. I’d tell them about the “runner’s high” that can only be experienced on the road. And even though this amorphous interaction of endogenous endorphins cannot be extracted, quantified or otherwise demonstrated in a lab, it’s true, and it’s real, and it’s what keeps us going on the road long after others have stopped and given up. And if they’re interested, I’d invite them to come on a run with me so they can experience the feeling for themselves then explain to me what exactly is going on. Either way I’ll continue to strive, some days easier than others, to experience the “runner’s high”.


Anonymous said...

It's kind of like I tell my son when he tells a joke and then immediately explains it. Look, if you have to explain it... then it's probably not funny. Same goes for explaining the running experience to the uninitiated. The only way they will ever understand is if they do it. And not just once, but routinely, because the runners high doesn't really settle in until the agony of starting an exercise program has eased.
Is it bad for me? ...probably. My knees sound like I'm stepping on crackers when I go upstairs now. Are there other forms of exercise that are lower impact but provide good benefits? Of course... but I swim like a stone and there is a fine line between exercise and death involved with swimming (something about drowning...)that I am not interested in approaching. But I AM totally addicted to the runners high. They will pry my running shoes off of my cold, dead feet. Maybe I will donate what is left to science so the nay sayers can analyze my body and try to rationalize why someone who subjected himself to such abuse could die with a smile on his face...!

Amy said...

What a great post! Running is such a simple thing that gives such great rewards but are hard to explain to nonrunners.

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