Here in Ohio I have been coaching someone for her first marathon in late spring. Last weekend, we touched base and reviewed how she was doing on her training schedule. In mid-review, she stopped me and asked: "so why I don't I get the runners high that everyone talks about"? Fair question, I thought, as there is a lot of expectation among beginning runners that makes them think that, when they run fast or far enough, that they too, will experience this miraculous "high". It also made me examine whether I had experienced anything resembling this in all me years of running?
Although I just referred to it as a "zone", what I believe is really happening is that one is becoming fully engaged in the "present". At the beginning of a run, one may think about some anxiety over work or a lost relationship (the past), or worry about the presentation you are trying to finish for a meeting (the future). As you progress in your run, you become more relaxed, forgetting the anxieties of the past and future, smiling at passing runners, looking at the beauty of the surroundings on your path along a lake, park, or even an unfamiliar city. You are in the "present" and there is a lightness to your being that is hard to achieve as you go through the everyday tasks of your life. For me, this is the "high" that I experience during most of my runs. I usually come back more energized and relaxed than when I began. And I can't wait to run again!