From Scott Dunlap and Dean Karnazes and all the way back to Yiannis Kouros runners have been describing that uphoric release, most commonly know as a “runner’s high.” I feel like Yiannis my favorite ultra-runner perfectly explains this phenomenon in the opening to his documentary Forever Running. For him the “high” he gets from running is an outer body experience, in which he is watching himself from above and he is able to control his movements from there. Like so many others his “high” lasts for a few minutes but does not happen every run.
I experienced my first runner’s high when I was 12, and I remember ever moment of it. We had been playing soccer continuously all day long, it was fall and the leaves were still green but the air had that bitter chill to it. I remember the smell of the grass as I breathed deeply my chest and throat stinging from exhaustion. We were on our fourth game that day, I was a midfielder and I had run multiple miles during the course of the day. The sky had turned gray menacing to let a cold rain fall down on us. Before the icy rain fell we would manage to fit in our last game. The coaches wanted us to stay loose in between games so we had been running laps around the complex since our last game had ended.
We were making our way back around our last lap when it happened. My legs they were moving effortlessly they, they felt almost numb in a way. The sensation caught me off guard and I looked down to make sure I still had them. I felt a wave of energy come up from my feet and the next thing I knew I was starring down at myself. Above the complex, hovering and feeling only air. It didn’t feel like I would imagine flying to feel like, it was more stable like floating in water almost. I watched myself run but unlike Yiannis I had no control, I was just starting down over everyone. I remember never wanting the feeling to end, to stay above the ground and float forever. Then on the next step as my clear made contact with the dirt I was julted and launched downward. The next moment I was starring at my legs just as I had been before the experience.

I’ve experienced this feeling, this outer body sensation multiple times since then while running. There are many who have tried to explain it Kolata and Dietrich took their shots at it. So many convincing arguments have been raised with research to back them up. Frankly I don’t care what makes this happen or how the body or the mind does it. I am content with knowing that I can at any moment during a run I can have the ultimate release.

The topic of this blog was brought about because recently I have been having minor releases while swimming. I don’t know if it’s because I’m doing a new sport I’ve never done and my body hasn’t moved this way before or if it’s the long period of time that I have done no activity whatsoever. Whatever the reason I am not complaining. For 40 seconds during my swim workout I had a brilliant release where my entire body felt numb, as if it was controlling the movement itself. I felt happy, blissful even, and the best part was absolutely no pain. Breathing came easy and it felt as if I could swim forever, on and on.

Have you guys ever experienced “runner’s high”? And was it during running or another activity?