Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Myths & Legends: The Runner's High

I am in search of the elusive Runner's High, which some have described as a "zoning out," others as an "adrenaline rush." Both descriptions sound manageable -- enjoyable, even. If I've gotten close to achieving it on the treadmill, I don't know it. I tend to get a sick feeling and chicken out before it hits.

I decided that I didn't want to reach the Runner's High on a treadmill, where I might embarrass myself with weird speech patterns and spontaneous behaviors and go crashing into a wall. I wanted to be in the Great Outdoors, where I stood a greater chance of not being seen.

My first Runner's High was to be authentic ... special. So I headed for the nearest park, where a hillish trail winds across open fields, around patches of trees, past a skateboard park, around baseball fields and so on and so forth. Walking this trail is vigorous enough. Running it seems downright foolish. So I decided to set small, attainable goals for myself. I'll start at this lightpost, I told myself, then make it over that hill, around that bend and all the way to that picnic pavilion. Surely, I'll get my high by then.

This is what a female under the influence of the Runner's High should look like. Fine posture, good form, sporty watch. The background looks remarkably like my park. My shorts, however, look nothing like this woman's underwear. The fuzzy individual is a kidnapper who plans to leave her body in a grove of trees. He can be found in most parks. At my park, he rides a bike.

So I stopped walking and stood beneath the lightpost, waiting for the appropriate song to be played on the antiquated Walkman I had found in my glove compartment beneath a wad of Starbucks napkins because I had left my hip and stylish iPod at home. And that's when the long-winded Foreigner ("Feels Like the First Time," no less) gave me my cue. With nobody beside me, I was my own trainer -- and I was inspiring. I talked myself through each small stretch as Foreigner prodded me along ...

"If I make it to the far post of the picnic pavilion and strategically stand behind the trash can, no one will see me vomit."
(see Amy run; hear Amy breathing heavily)

"If I don't stop before then, I'll be in danger of passing out in clear view of the playground. The worst that could happen there is that I startle a bunch of preschoolers. So I'll keep going."
(see Amy run; hear Amy breathing heavily)

"Uh-oh. What if the moms see me? That could be good. They probably all have cell phones and could call 9-1-1. Right?"
(see Amy run; you may not hear Amy breathing at all)

"But if I gamble and travel farther than the playground, I may end up near the woods and closer to that strange man on the bike, and I won't be visible because of all the trees. Then he'll steal this antiquated Walkman, which doesn't even belong to me. Run faster."
(see Amy run; technically, that's not really "running")

"Then he'll notice my car key tied in my shoelace and steal my car. Where will he dump my body? I should have brought my cell phone with me. But I'll probably be unconscious, so it wouldn't matter anyway. Keep GOING..."

By the time all these thoughts had run through my head and the park was spinning at warp speed, I was already past the picnic pavilion AND playground. And over the hill and around the bend, with no strange man on the bike anywhere in sight. And it was there that I found what may not be the Runner's High, but something more akin to "intense nausea" and "early onset dementia." It was a dangerous level of work not to be rewarded with a high, if you ask me.

My heart rate monitor had long since passed the 99% mark and made its way into the blinking-light zone, which, if you read the manual to this useful device, you know that the watch was about to explode. And that I was probably nearing death. But I didn't vomit. I didn't pass out. I didn't lose my memory.

I looked like this.

When I got home, I searched high and low for Tylenol. Or Advil. Or crystal meth. But then I remembered that my dear husband likes to confiscate OTC medications and keep them in the console of his car, "just in case." Just in case HE gets a headache during his busy day. Or just in case I need them here and end up sawing off my head just to relieve the pain so that he can come home to a headless wife who can't complain or boss him around. So I ate a handful of chocolate Cadbury Mini Eggs instead. Amazingly, the headache eventually faded.

Clearly, the Runner's High is greatly overrated ... and probably dangerous. Running should be reserved for people who are in a hurry, or who are being chased by a strange man on a bike, or who look like this ...

We all know the most successful long-distance runners come from Kenya and Ethiopia.

But I had no one to share my almost-victory with. No one who would understand the greatness of this near-feat. With other aerobic sports, you have people around. But with running, you tend to be on your own. Long-distance runners must feel lonely from time to time. Just ask this guy ...

He just keeps running and running.

Do I give up? Throw in the towel? Call it quits? Absolutely not. The Runner's High is around here SOMEwhere. I shall keep you posted ...