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Gretchen Braun

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A Runner's World: Taking on the Full Marathon

Posted: 02/15/2012 2:29 pm

I am high right now. I got out of class about an hour ago, and couldn't even go back to my apartment before getting my fix. During class, I kept imagining the amazing feeling I'd soon have, the feeling I have now. I feel free, happy, completely and utterly alive. I just got done running six miles, and I have runner's high.

Runner's high, a term coined in the 1970s, can more accurately be described as a release of endorphins that leaves the runner feeling stress-free, pain-free, and overall happy. This feeling doesn't happen immediately; endorphins are released slowly during a long and vigorous workout. For me, this happens after about thirty minutes of running or other activity. The first few miles are strenuous, and it's tough to continue to run, but I push through this. Once I pass the wall of pain, I come out the other side a new runner. Suddenly, any pain I previously had in my body vanishes; I float over sidewalks and down side streets; I lose track of time and miles and become immersed in the music pulsing through my headphones into my ears.

Similarly to a training run, my running career has not been a smooth ride. When I first began running more than ten years ago, I was very eager to start and couldn't wait to sign up for races with my older sister and dad. As I began training and competing, I realized what a physically and mentally difficult sport running was. No longer was it the fun hobby that I wanted. I began to loath speed workouts, long runs on weekends, and even recovery runs. Instead of being an outlet, it became a punishment I had to endure a few times a week. ​Once I began college, I promptly stopped running. I joined the marching band, student government, and organizations in my major to keep busy. Without being under the watchful eyes of my parents, I closed the book on my short-lived running career, thinking that I would never want to open it again. How wrong I was.

Last year, on a whim, I decided to join my dad in a race. This wasn't just a puny 5K or 10K that I was used to running: I signed up to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. After a few months of half-hearted training, I faced the most difficult challenge of my life. The race not only tested my physical limits, but also put my hard-headed, "I will finish even if I lose my legs" mindset to the test. Although I finished with my legs burning and completely out of breath, I finished with a new frame of mind. Running 13.1 miles around the streets of Pittsburgh, I rediscovered a passion that I had only begun to discover in my pre-college days. As soon as the race ended and I was able to breath normally again, I made it my goal to do better at the race next year. In fact, I would do the full marathon, twice the distance I had just run, in less than twice the time.

Since that race and setting that goal, my running career has entered the "runner's high" stage that I wait for when I'm on a training run. I've decided to throw myself into training. Rather than subscribing to fashion magazines and blogs, I wait for the new issue of Runner's World in my mailbox at the beginning of every month. I search the Internet for post-workout muscle cramp remedies (pickle juice is my secret weapon) rather than a new outfit to wear. Instead of scouring sales for a cute pair of heels, I stock up on Brooks running shoes whenever they come down in price.

With the marathon only twelve weeks away, I will continue to push my body past its limits, running further and faster than I ever thought was possible. While my high from the six miles I just ran is wearing off, my high of being a runner is still going strong, and I have a feeling it won't go away any time soon.