This past weekend, my daughter participated in a 1/2 marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. The humidity and temperatures were much higher than those in which she has been training (she lives quite a bit farther north) and the route was hilly, but she completed the 13.1 course.
I, on the other hand, walked a bit over 5 miles, traveling from the parking lot to the starting point to two different places on the route to encourage her and take pictures and finally to the finish line to take a final picture and hear all about her run.
I had plenty of time while waiting for her to run by to observe other runners.
Some wore all sorts of fancy running apparel and sported earbuds and various technological gizmos; others had on plain ol’ shorts, t-shirt, and tennis shoes, without a single gadget in sight.
There were toned, muscular runners, there were runners who were anything but, and there were runners who fit somewhere between the two.
But despite all the differences, there was one similarity between all of the runners.
They were ultra serious at the beginning of the race, and by mile 3, they looked miserable.
Which begs the question I first considered over 30 years ago.
Why, if running is so much fun, do runners look so miserable?
Seriously! As a freshman in college, I had a roommate who was an avid runner. Every morning, rain or shine, she was up early for her run before showering and eating breakfast. She cajoled and chided and even tried shaming me into joining her. She extolled the virtues of running, including all the health benefits. She told me it was fun!
But it wasn’t until she mentioned that runners get a “high” that she got my attention. You see, I was not at all interested in taking drugs — smoking pot or swallowing pills and definitely nothing involving a needle — but I was intrigued by the concept of a euphoria that could be reached in a safe, legal manner.
With her assurance that she wouldn’t leave me behind and would never make fun of my pathetic attempts, I committed to running with her for the remainder of the semester.
Three and three-fourths months. Fifteen weeks. Five days a week. Twenty-five runs.
It was the longest semester of my entire college career. The longest 15 weeks of my life.
I complained to my roommate that I was not enjoying myself and that I had never once felt the promised sense of euphoria. She convinced me both would come with a bit more time.
I ran through Christmas break and part-way through the Spring semester.
Spring Break arrived, and while laying on a sunny Florida beach with a Bartles & James Strawberry Daiquiri wine cooler in my hand, I faced the fact that I hadn’t enjoyed a single run. In fact, I despised the last run as much as the first one and every one in between.
And I’d never once gotten high!
That was it, I decided. No more running for me.
Through my own, albeit brief, career as a runner and from 35+ years of meeting runners while driving around town and 7 years of observing runners at marathons, I’ve come to two conclusions.
First, running is not fun and there is no such thing as a runner’s high.
Instead, both are myths that those people who are for some strange reason addicted to running and don’t mind shin splints and knee pain and toenails falling off, spin for 2 reasons.
Just like other addicts, they feel a need to justify their behavior. And, of course, they want to drag others down with them!
So resist the runner propaganda. Don’t buying those spandex shorts and compression socks and $300 tennis shoes. Forget all about a watch that measures distance, pace, heart rate, and BMI (but can’t tell time worth beans). Throw away the energy jell packs and cardboard-like protein bars.
Throw on your comfy shorts and t-shirt, snap a leash on the dog’s collar, and take a walk in the beautiful sunshine.
Ahhh . . . there’s the high!