GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — I hear it all the time: “I hate running.” To be honest, I didn’t like it too much either, until five years ago when it was taken away from me.
My only goals back then were to run track for Clemson University and make it to the Olympics — running consumed me. I pushed myself to train six days a week, even through shin splints. Then, before I knew it, I had stress fractures, sidelining me for six months.
Within the first month, I realized how much running was a part of my life, not only for physical fitness, but also mental fitness. Without having an outlet for my stress and anxiety, I quickly found myself falling down a spiral of depression. It was the longest six months of my life.
When the healing process was finally over, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was literally ready to hit the ground running.
I started off slowly with a couple of laps at the local track and slowly increased the distance week by week, until I felt comfortable enough to do a road run. I challenged myself to beat my personal record and run non-stop for six miles.
Everything was going great, until mile three when I hit the proverbial wall. It felt like I had just been paid a visit by a dementor, a psyche-consuming being from the Harry Potter series. I didn’t want to go any further. I felt defeated.
That is when I decided to dig deep and push through the pain. All of a sudden, the pain went away. One of the greatest feelings ever was running without even thinking about it. Before I knew it I was on the final stretch, and at that moment I was hooked on the runner’s high.
According to researcher David A. Raichlen, humans report a wide range of neurobiological rewards following moderate and intense aerobic activity, also referred to as the “runner’s high,” which can encourage habitual aerobic exercise.
Now, I run for an hour or more, multiple times a week. I love the euphoric feeling of my mind being free of any worries. No matter what happens at home or work, running is my number one self-prescribed medication. Nothing works better to get me at ease and put everything into a better perspective. There are plenty of times where I grudgingly force myself to go on a short run, and end up running double what I had planned because of the high. No matter if I’m stressed, sad, angry, energetic, confused or happy — the runner’s high is my go-to drug, so to speak.
Running, for me, has changed from a burden to a gift, and I have become a better person because of it. Marathoner Gail W. Kislevitz said it best: “Running is my private time, my therapy, my religion.”