The Myth of the Runner’s High

Beginners often long for a time when running is not only easier, but actually fun. They can hardly wait to experience the endorphin-induced euphoria popularly called “the runner’s high.”

Well, sorry to burst that balloon. Running will always suck. It hurts when you begin because you are out of shape and hurts when you are fit because you run proportionately faster. The weather will be ideal for running about two weeks a year, otherwise it will be too hot, cold, windy, icy, humid, snowy, or rainy. Courses that boast they are “glass flat” will torture you with “rolling hills.” You will have to go to the bathroom at awkward times and visit some very dicey port-a-potties. (My wife has button-holed complete strangers during half marathons to use their bathrooms.)

You will get sunburned, windburned, frostbitten, and in my case, twice last year, stung by bees. You will feel misery that has no equal outside a cancer ward. On long runs, men actually bleed from their nipples unless they coat them with Vaseline, for crying out loud!

I’m an Irish Catholic, I get through my runs by reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary: e.g. Jesus is tortured, Jesus is crowned with thorns, Jesus dies on the cross.

I’d sugar-coat it if I could, but that won’t do you any favors. There are real rewards of running. They just don’t occur during the running itself.

Scott Schaeffer-Duffy is a Catholic Worker, marathoner, and high school cross-country coach. This article is excerpted from his book Straight Talk on Running: An Introduction to America’s Weirdest Sport.

From the January 2013 issue of Happiness Pony. [PDF]

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