I was going to learn some statistics today, but then I ran 25 miles and slept for an hour and a half and am preparing to make dinner, so I've given up on that idea. All the same, because Angel showed me an interesting article from the New York Times that I was thinking about while I ran around Seattle. The title is "What Really Causes Runner's High?", and the argument is that, while endorphins are usually credited with causing the "pure happiness, elation...feeling of unity with one’s self and/or nature, endless peacefulness", and so forth that athletes feel during strenuous exercise, there's a good chance that it's actually a chemical similar to the one found in pot. The chemical is called endocannabinoid, and they say that it might be a part of a positive neurological feedback mechanism that leads us to enjoy exercise and may help exercise facilitate cognitive improvements. As the person who gave Angel the article said, instead of all of this running, we should just smoke a joint.

There are a couple of reasons I find this interesting. One is that we talked about the problems with the endorphin theory in my Physiology class recently. Basically, science hasn't yet figured out a way to replicate the 'runners high' experience using endorphin supplements. You can't inject/smoke/huff endorphins to get a high. Pot (which contains cannabinoids similar to the endocanibinoids that your body produces), you can, it turns out.

I've mentioned here before that exercise has replaced religious disciplines for me in a lot of ways, and the article brought some of that up for me as well. It's been a long time since I've experienced it, but as a teenager my main source of euphoria was from religious practice - usually worship services, but also personal experiences of communion with God. I don't know about the effect of endcannabinoids in religious experience, but there's definitely some overlap in the experiences of endurance exercise and being religious. Not just because you have to be disciplined and all that to do both, but because you end up feeling that unity thing it talked about above in weird and unexpected places. And running, at this point in my life, is a reliable source of that feeling in the way that religion was when I was a teenager.

Just some thoughts for the day. Now I'm going to make some chicken wings for dinner, because it's almost my birthday, I'm starved, and I love chicken wings.


Megan Ross said…
Running has in many ways replaced religious disciplines for me, too. Even more than that, it is deeply a part of my spirituality. It's the best natural high, and I feel empowered to overcome adversity, I feel closer to God and to myself. Whatever the chemical or part of the brain that makes this happen, it's presence is real to me, and many others. Though I do know some people run long and hard, never experiencing the high.

Have you heard of the book by Episcopal Priest Roger Joslin called "Running the Spiritual Path"? It's a great read and full of running spiritual practices.
Anonymous said…
What's this? A birthday? Well, may God belss you on this most celebratory occasion. A good man deserves good birthday wishes, so those from me you have in spades, dear sir. Kudos on keeping it real.