The world of a runner: Racing through natural highs

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Runners appear calm as they stretch for their race, anticipating the run ahead of them, but nobody can see the butterflies already racing inside each runners’ stomach. Each hopeful racer lines up behind the starting line. Bang! The gun shot in the air. From that nanosecond, it’s all about beating the opponent to the finish line and finally crossing it. Pain no longer exists from the time a runner finishes the course. The “high” from running the entire race spreads within their body.

According to a 2008 Vanderbilt University study, runners receive a “high,” along with other benefits that many runners notice but aren’t quite sure where they came from. Where does that feeling come from when you run for miles through dirt and turns and then cross that finish line with motivation and energy to do something even more?

Elizabeth McLeod Sadler, author of the study, “The benefits of running” finds runners experience an intense aftermath feeling called euphoria which releases beta-endorphins triggered by the neurons in the nervous system. A runner may not feel pain afterward because it causes them to feel intense happiness and exhilaration.

Aaron Carmack, a senior studying statistics, has experienced this natural “high.” The personal challenge from finishing a race helps Carmack mentally and physically, thanks to the “high” kicking in during and after a run.

“I run because it helps me to be more alert in class and get the most out of my schooling,” Carmack said. “I play sports and am (an) active person so running helps me to stay in shape and run races.”

Running improves the lifestyle of a runner, from eating and sleeping to relaxing. Runners become addicted to this intense high, and it can often replace other addictions to drugs, alcohol and even food.

Karly Nelson, an exercise science major from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., has been running since high school. Although she hasn’t ran a marathon before, she is in the process of training for one and loves to run.

“I like how I feel after I run;  it’s like my de-stresser,” Nelson said. “I feel really relaxed after.”

Runners may run also for health benefits, whether they’re a marathoner or just an average athlete. Sadler found that running helps lower blood pressure by keeping the arteries’ elastic to expand and contract, which maximizes the lungs’ potential, strengthens the heart and prevents heart attacks.

Nelson also listed benefits that she learned from her exercise science class, such as less cardiovascular diseases, lower blood pressure, stress and cholesterol and better oxygen carrying capacity.

Running makes patients less depressed, fatigued and confused, according to the Vanderbilt study. Patients who have suffered from depression or are recovering from setbacks are given something to focus on, as it removes them from the world and places them into their own “zone.”

Ever since high school, Brooklyn Bollinger enjoys a passion that she does everyday and nothing more can make her happy than doing what she loves to do: running.

Bollinger, an exercise and wellness major from Cottonwood Heights, feels like she is being productive when she runs.

“I like when I run in the morning, it starts my day off right, makes me feel good about myself and helps me be healthy,” she said.

Carmack said running helps him clear his mind, acts as a relaxant, gives him more energy and keeps him more awake and alert, especially in school and classes. Carmack still feels the “high” from running his heart out in recently completing a marathon.

Bollinger’s mother, who has ran five marathons, recently qualified for the Boston Marathon and is an inspiration to run for her daughter.

“I think everyone should run; running a half marathon is a huge accomplishment,” Bollinger said, joking that her mom thinks it should be a requirement for heaven. “It really is such a mental experience in your head and everybody needs that to know that they can do hard things.”

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