Running Sucks, Right?

Running is a painful, pointless waste of time. No good can come of it, you just end up becoming sweaty and tired, and you’ll probably sprain your ankle too.  It looks painful, it is painful, and there really aren’t any translatable skills. It won’t help your career, it’s pretty much just time that you can’t get back.

That’s how I felt about running most of my life, until an unfortunate incident involving a hatchet, some “extracurricular” activities and a bear left me without the use of my hand for a while. Without getting into too much detail, I nearly chopped my hand off while splitting kindling on a trip in the Alaskan bush, and on the way to meet a medevac team we ran into a bear; for the better part of a month I could only use one hand, keeping me from my job and all my hobbies.  It was during that time that I discovered trail running (I now have full use of both hands). I picked up a cheap pair of running shoes and headed to the first trailhead I could find; it had to be better than sitting around and staring at the stitches in my hand.

That first run was terrible. I don’t remember how long I went, but it wasn’t more than a mile or two. My insides were on fire and it felt like I was sucking air through a straw.  I remember thinking I would never do it again as I plodded along the trail. But I couldn’t work due to my injury, couldn’t rock climb, couldn’t play music, couldn’t really do anything.  So I kept at it, and it wasn’t long before I could run longer, breathe a little easier and take stock of my surroundings. Like hiking, only faster. I marveled at the trees and streams, lakes, rivers and mountains as my feet kicked up the dirt beneath my feet. And then something crazy happened – I started to enjoy it.  Every step was a personal accomplishment, one step further than I had ever ran before. Every day I ran became a personal victory.

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Seriously why did I just do that.

The measured beat of my feet on the ground put me into an almost meditative state, which ld me to discover the “runner’s high”. A scientifically backed phenomenon, the runner’s high comes when the body is pushed enough to produce endorphins and endocannabinoids. These chemicals act similarly to opiates and THC, respectively, can, if you push yourself enough, produce a euphoric state.  Thought to work as a natural painkiller back when humans needed to chase prey over long distance, the runner’s high settles in when you push yourself, but not to the extreme. Somewhere between leisurely and intense is where you can find it.

The Rose City has a wealth of trail running well within the city limits. There’s Powell Butte, with it’s stunning views of Mt. Hood, Forest Park, sporting miles of trails, Washington Park, Mt. Tabor and more. All these areas provide not just a place to run, but a little escape from the city streets, the traffic, the noise; and while there, might as well get a little natural high.  I used to be a non believer, and a smoker. If I can get motivated enough to run, anyone can.

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You, here, someday.