I’m still waiting for the runners’ high

I mentioned in my May missive that being marooned in our own home during this lockdown seemed to make it easier to pack on a few extra pounds. Yes, COVID-19 has given me something of a minor girth defect. So, since early April, I’ve been trying my hand (or feet, as it were) at running. It started off slowly, and by that, I mean my morning run was really a morning walk.

But by mid-April I was well and truly running six mornings a week with Saturday as my day of rest. Those early runs were just over three kilometres. Yes, I know, not exactly an Ironman competition. But the route I’d devised seemed to feature considerable elevation changes. One long uphill segment made it seem that I was climbing about 5,000 feet. This belief was reinforced by my obvious need for oxygen as I crested the top of the mountain (well, really it was just a hill, even a gentle slope). But it took its toll.

As I increased the distance and added at least one more day for rest and recovery, I changed my route in favour of one that, while not exactly flat, at least did not give me altitude sickness. I’m now up to a 5.3-kilometre morning run, at least four times a week. I’m even using an app on my phone that tells me precisely how far and fast I’ve run, my elapsed time, the net elevation gain in my route, and the weekly fluctuations in the TSX.

You might think that after three months of very consistently rising at 6:30 a.m. and running for a half-hour or more, I might be feeling better about it all. My running times for the route have decreased and my distances have increased. I’m clearly fitter than I was when I started. And I’ve even shed a few pounds (though not nearly as many as I expected or wanted). You might even think I’ve been bitten by the running bug and have become a little obsessive about it as evidenced by my slavish adherence to my weekly running schedule. Or, miracle of miracles, you might conclude that I must be enjoying the half-hour of solitude and reflection to remain so committed to it.

Ha! Now that’s funny! Were it only so, I say with considerable regret. It is not an exaggeration to say that each step is painful. Each moment passes so very, very slowly. And the only time I enjoy it. … Who am I kidding? There really is no time when I enjoy it. I will say that when I finish my 5.3 kilometres, I am filled with relief and a momentary flush of virtue for having done the right thing.

I’ve often heard veteran joggers talk about the elusive “runners’ high” that keeps them coming back for more. To me, “elusive” is not quite the right word. “Mythical” might be more appropriate. Or how about “fictitious?” I’ve yet to experience anything that could remotely be construed as the “runners’ high” unless it encompasses profuse perspiration, achy feet, and painful legs that for the rest of the day protest to the point of mutiny. But I’m still waiting and still running.

I’m reporting on all of this here to help stop me from bailing on my morning ritual. And believe me, it wouldn’t take much for me to abandon my conviction. It’s hard on my knees. Good point! It’s dangerous running through the streets of a very quiet neighbourhood. True. Just the other day I was startled when a car drove by me. I was on the sidewalk at the time, but still, it gave me a fright. Some say that breathing so hard for a half hour contributes to global warming. Who am I to stand in the way of flattening the world’s temperature curve?

But in the end, I’m hanging in. I figure I can do anything for 30 minutes four times a week. But man, it’s the longest half hour of my day. If you see my “runners’ high” in your travels, please send it my way.

About Terry Fallis 86 Articles
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of nine national bestsellers, all published by McClelland & Stewart. His most recent, A New Season, is now in bookstores. www.terryfallis.com.