I run, but I am not a runner. That is what I tell most people when discussing my running habits. I am currently training for my second half marathon but that does not make me a “runner”. I also tell people that I’m more of a “trotter”. I run at such a slow pace, sometimes I think I could actually walk faster than I am running.
I was asked the other day if I really felt that the runner’s high existed. I told this person that I was sure the high you would get off of other substances would be better. They laughed but I was pretty sure of my answer. Everyone in runner’s circles talks about the runner’s high that comes from the release of endorphins into the bloodstream from exercise. I suppose I imagined it feeling like a rush about 10 or 15 minutes into running. Suddenly you feel like you are lighter and stronger and faster than before. At least for me, this is not the case.
Allow me to take you through my recent 14k run through High Park (or rather, around and around and around High Park):
Even as I am walking from my car to the path, I’m dreading this but all the while trying to convince myself that it won’t be so bad and that no matter what, I will be running for a long time.
The first twenty paces is a shock ot my system. I’m gasping already and nothing feels comfortable. I do my best to ignore all of this, listening to whatever is on my ipod and distracting myself with the scenery around me.
I get to my first big hill and realize that my breathing has settled. This quickly gets disturbed as I climb the hill all the while telling myself that this hill will be easy if I go slow and steady. The first half of the hill feels that way but I get about halfway up and my entire body wants to quit. I imagine just dropping and lying in the middle of the hill until somebody feels sorry for me, picks me up and carries me back to my car. I give up about three quarters of the way up, feeling like a 85 year old woman with Emphasema. The only thing more embarrassing than the fact that I am walking up this hill instead of running it, is my gasping and wheezing.
I get to the top and pretend to stretch while I finish catching my breath. As I start running again, things actually feel good. I drift off into my own thoughts and my music carries me halfway around the loop and down the hill. I then enter the leash-free zone and am bombarded by muddy, wet dogs who seem to get genuine entertainment out of acting like pilons for me to dodge.
I’m then distracted by the pain in my right leg. Is it my calf? No…it’s my achilles. My achilles is killing me. Ok, I will just ignore it. I convince myself to run the rest of the loop with the promise of stopping to stretch my right leg at the start.
After a short stretch, I continue on for the second loop. Again, the first half is not bad until that dreaded hill. I even play games with myself to try to push myself to the next tree, or the part of the curb that is crumbling but it still doesn’t help. This time, as I walk up the hill gasping yet again, I am less ashamed…or maybe just a little more desperate.
I get to the top and make it around the loop and down the big hill again and yes, my achilles is still killing me. I keep thinking if only my leg didn’t hurt then perhaps this would be a good run. I realize then just how slow my pace is. I trot through the dogs once more, this time only being cut off by a golden retreiver and a slobbery big black dog covered in mud.
As I pass the parking lot this time, I’m tempted to just run straight to my car but my guilty conscience pushes me forward. The third time around the loop is much like the second but it all happens at a much slower pace. In fact, I think that if I were walking normally, I would be moving faster than my current running pace.
As I near the end of the run, my legs are hardly moving. They are simply shuffling and they not only physically feel tired but my body radiates with a dull pain that seems to stem from my joints. I push on through to the end, not even increasing my speed as I run the final 20 metres. Instead, my shuffling slows down to a walking shuffle and I get directly in my car without stretching, thankful to be sitting down.
The only satisfaction I gain out of that is knowing that it is done and that I didn’t whimp out or cheat. Not much of a high if you ask me! Funny though, although there may not be a high that comes out of running, there is always something that draws me back to it.