Everyone talks about the runner's high, the feeling of euphoria as the Pituitary Gland releases Endorphins into your blood stream during exercise, dangerous situations and well, sex. As a runner, this feeling can be particularly intense when cresting a hill on a strenuous route or when pushing your body to make a new personal record (PR). Either way, a runner's high is almost always a wonderful feeling. Well, in this post I'd like to talk about the opposite emotion: the utter pit of despair that is "runner's low".
Runner's Low is something we all experience; athletes and non-athletes alike. It's the feeling that you had a bad day. You were just injured in training. Your cat bit you. You crashed your car. Your boss is giving you trouble at work. As my favorite childhood book reads, you're having a "terrible horrible no good very bad day". Things pile up and you just feel... low.
Well, a few weeks ago I was experiencing my own "runner's low". I won't get into the details, but it involved losing touch with someone who was once a good friend. Driving home, a heavy stone sat in my stomach, a sour taste coated my mouth and my body was sapped of energy. I'd normally call a friend, but it was late, and my family's on the east coast, three hours further into the night. I walked into my house and dropped my bag by the door.
I was exhausted and frustrated.
I didn't know what to do... so, I ran.
As soon as I started lacing on my sneakers, the grief that I was experiencing started to cede; replaced instead by a calm. While I couldn't control the craziness of the day or the disappointment from hours earlier, I could control this moment. I could run.
And so, I bounded out my door and began my normal loop, cutting through the park, and down around the lake. The night was especially dark. When I was about to turn back toward my house, I felt a moment of inspiration and decided to go farther into the night. It was past 10:30pm now, but I was feeling inspired and plotted a way down to the Burke Gilman trail.
I didn't know where I was going, but the sense of autonomy was exhilarating. That night I ran 15 miles in the darkness, eventually looping back to my home up north. By the time I got to bed, I felt better about the day. This run was exactly what I needed.
That was run therapy.
Running is its own unique therapy. While it won't replace guidance from a professional, it can help balance you in a way few other things can. Running at a strenuous pace is, well, just really hard.Your chest is heaving, your muscles are straining and you really just can't worry about test scores or promotions, heartbreak or hairlines.
You can only worry about being present, and in the moment.
So the next time you're feeling the "runner's low", try to head out for a jog. Just put one foot in front of the other.
Brighter moments are ahead.