Jenni Falconer: On The Run

Our woman pounding the pavements explains why you feel good when you run

Have you ever experienced a runner’s high? Perhaps you’re always in trainers, chasing that sensation, or maybe you’ve never been inclined to run, and therefore the idea of a runner’s high sounds like some chemical-induced nonsense made up by people who like to jog.

Well, a runner’s high is a feeling of euphoria that you experience during, and after a run. When your blood is pumping there’s an increased level of endorphins and opioid peptides in your body, which have been proven to lift and enhance your mood. As a result of these factors, your anxiety levels decrease and you also have a lessened ability to feel pain. All in all, it’s quite a remarkable feeling – so you probably won’t be surprised to hear that, once you’ve had one runner’s high, you’re definitely keen to get back out there in the hope of experiencing another.

Now, don’t think it happens to you every time you pop around the block at an accelerated pace, sometimes you experience a runner’s high, and other times you don’t. It’s believed that this ’high’ is hard wired in us, going back to when our ancestors’ survival depended on their ability to run fast after food! When they went out to catch their prey, feelgood brain chemicals were released which helped them pick up the pace and achieve the speed and distance they required at that instant. The runner’s high on this occasion might have served as a natural painkiller, masking blisters and weariness. I know we can’t necessarily relate to our ancestors, as I imagine very few of us have had to chase and catch our dinner first, however knowing how the runner’s high was initially achieved – through happy brain reactions – might help you in your future quest to get that same buzz.

Interestingly, a runner’s high is more achievable if you run with others. If you do have to go it alone, wear headphones and listen to something that tricks your mind into believing you’re not alone! In fact, happy music spikes endorphins and could help you get to the perfect runner’s high moment. So, the next time you go running, if you fancy trying something new and you’d like to experience a runner’s high, then you could download my running podcast, RunPod, to listen to. It will motivate you, no matter what level you run at – but more than that, it will also trick your mind into thinking that you are not alone!

In my podcast, I’ve spoken to a few guests about the feeling of a runner’s high and asked how they’d define it. Amanda Holden said, it’s like Christmas Eve – the excitement of it before it’s happened. Lorraine Kelly compared it to drinking the first half of a bottle of champagne, while Bella Mackie said it’s like going down a slide and shouting ’weeeeeeeeeeeee’.

Everyone describes their runner’s high in their own unique way. For me, it’s the closest you’ll get to feeling like a superhero – you feel invincible, like nothing can take the shine away from your happy mood. Imagine that feeling after a really great first date – it makes you warm, puts a constant smile on your face and fills your mind with happy thoughts. Your brain goes into overdrive and you start planning all the amazing things you could do next.

What’s a runner’s high like for you? If you haven’t experienced it, then maybe it’s time you popped on those trainers and gave yourself a little push. There’s an amazing feeling out there waiting for you – it costs nothing and, once you’ve had a bite, I can guarantee you’ll be back for more. Happy running!

Health & Wellbeing