I was halfway through a planned 1.25-mile easy treadmill run this morning. Pandora's Classic Rock station was blaring from my smartphone, and if I recall correctly T. Rex was banging a gong. I was going pretty slow, trying to ignore that weird off-and-on pain in my left knee and the persistent ache in my right foot and the fact that gravity was pressing down unusually hard and it felt like I was running through oatmeal, when suddenly it happened.
First the aches and pains just disappeared, like someone had injected me with the most wondrous fast-acting painkiller known to mankind.
Then the oatmeal melted away, and gravity lifted its curse.
My breathing was completely in sync with the motion of my legs as they carried me forward effortlessly, and I felt -- no, I KNEW -- that I could run forever and ever if I wanted to.
I was flooded with euphoria.
Runner's high! Score!
If you had told me a few years ago that someday I'd call myself a runner, that I would enjoy running, that I would WANT to run, I would have laughed in your face. I hated the running we had to do in gym class when I was in school. It hurt. I was slow. I didn't see the point. Getting from there to here was a loooooong journey (you can read about it over here, if you're so inclined).
All I can tell you is, now that I've got it, I want to keep it. Running has done amazing things for me. It's the best way I've found to manage stress. I'm on a much more even keel emotionally (all month long, ifyouknowwhatImean). I'm sleeping better at night and feeling less fatigued during the day. My blood pressure, which had started creeping up a bit over the past few years, has settled back down to where it was 15 years ago. My cholesterol numbers are fantastic. And perhaps most telling, for me -- the heart murmur (mitral valve prolapse) I've had all my life, which in the past has allowed blood to regurgitate between two chambers in my heart, thus greatly increasing my risk of endocarditis, no longer does that. I still have the murmur and always will unless I get the valve replaced, but I no longer have regurgitation through the valve. Which means my risk of endocarditis has dropped significantly. That right there is what you call life-changing. Or life-extending, anyway.
Of course, I don't know for sure that running caused all these changes, but it's pretty obvious it hasn't HURT. And it's not like I'm an elite runner with 1% body fat who runs ultramarathons every weekend. I've been running an average of maybe 4 to 7 miles a week for the past year. And I run them SLOWLY. Like, really slowly. You could probably walk faster than I run.
There was a marathon here in Austin today. Do I wish I had been out there running it? Nope. Hello, those things are 26.2 miles long! That is a LOT of running to do all at once, and I have no plans to join those ranks anytime soon (someday, maybe ... but not soon). I absolutely applaud everyone who did run it, and I hope they all had a fantastic time and achieved their goals.
Me? I'm happy with my 1.25-mile slow treadmill run. I hit my runner's high and finished exhausted and happy, and every time that happens it reminds me of the real reason I do it.
Because I love it. Oh, I do. I really really do.