“Running is a runner’s work of art.” – George Sheehan
Following is an excerpt from Twenty-four Years to Boston, to be released by St. Johann Press in September 2013:
Runner’s high is a term exclusive to the running community. Athletes in other sports experience similar periods of enhanced performance that they refer to as the zone or the flow. In the book The Zen of Sports, sports psychologists describe the phenomenon as a buoyancy, an elevated sense of mastery and self-transcendence, and the absence of self-consciousness. Professional basketball players say the rim appears the size of a hula hoop when every shot they throw toward the net swishes through nothing but cotton, while batters say the baseball looks like a beach ball when they are able to hit any pitch a Major League pitcher throws to them. When runners reach such a state, the act of running becomes effortless and they feel as though their feet no longer touch the ground, as if they could go on forever.
No magic formula exists to attain a runner’s high. There are no discrete number of miles or amount of hours that deliver a runner to the mystical state that transcends time and space. It has as much to do with persistence and commitment as it does to distance and hours, thus each runner experiences a different journey on his or her road to that level of consciousness. But one thing is certain–once in the zone a runner never wants to leave.
Ideally, remnants of the zone remain with a runner when both feet return to earth. The transcendent state leads to a more energetic life, optimistic outlook, improved relations and heightened clairvoyance; a state of mind characterized as being uniquely in touch with one’s spirit. It is a stretch to say that even food tastes better and sleep is sounder, but that does appear to be true. Relationships with family and friends can improve when one party is more in tune with themselves and to the world.
Distance runners spend countless solitary hours on the trail with endorphins emitting from the brain, which cultivates philosophical contemplation. I can attest to the claim of many runners–that they do their most creative thinking while on the trail. When I became more committed to running many years ago, fitness transcended physical conditioning and opened my mind to appreciate life on a new and different level. Situations I’d experienced hundreds of times seemed fresh. I’d look into the eyes of people I’d known my entire life, and it seemed as though I was more thoroughly connected. I felt present, though I never thought I was detached. Paradoxically, speeding up on foot slowed down my daily life and enabled me to connect. I was more attentive and wanted to be a better mate, father and friend. I found a pureness in my being that I wanted to cling to and never let go.
By this point you might be wondering, is he still talking about running? I am. But just as we runners have our own lingo–the Runner’s High–this state of consciousness is not exclusive to runners. Essentially anyone can transcend their own being in the midst of an activity they are passionate about–cycling, gardening, cooking, sculpting, writing, building a house, even serving others. The trick is to find your passion, that activity that touches something deep inside, and immerse yourself in the journey to perfect it.