I was pretty sure it was a myth, this so-called “runners’ euphoria.” Supposedly, at some point in a run, or a workout, in response to sustained physical exertion, the brain releases dopamine and endorphins and that release triggers a sort of pleasurable feeling that’s like, well, euphoria. I’d heard about it years ago. Specifically, about thirty years ago from a teaching buddy who was clearly addicted to running. So far as I could tell, nothing less than addiction would explain wanting to do something that seemed so boring and pointless.
Granted, running keeps many people free of any excess body fat, cultivates great physical stamina and reportedly yields a number of other benefits. So would a couple hours of vigorous ping-pong playing, I guess.
At any rate, you could call me a skeptic. Or you could just say that I hated the notion of exercise. Sport, I liked. Recreation, I enjoyed. Playing games? Sounds like fun. Exercise? Bah, humbug!
Then, a couple of months ago, while pushing myself to exceed what was easy and comfortable on the elliptical trainer, I experienced runners’ euphoria. Somewhere along about thirty minutes of maintaining an average of six miles-an-hour, after a surge of sweat and past the tiredness, I felt a flush. It wasn’t overwhelming, just a sense of soothing exhilaration. Suddenly, I felt like I could run for hours. Very pleasant, very satisfying. I guess it could happen, after all!
I had been a skeptic because I’d never experienced it myself. I had scoffed at the notion because I’d never invested the effort necessary to produce the effect. Maybe I just had to get old enough, determined enough. For whatever reasons, I had followed the same line and logic of those who’ve never experienced the presence of God or witnessed the working of the Holy Spirit. The same path of those who scoff at the notion of a peace that passes understanding or of a power that can move mountains.
Regardless of how many times I may or may not invest the sweat and effort of the elliptical trainer or the weight machines or five kilometers of cross country terrain, I will never doubt again the reality of runners’ euphoria. But its existence never depended on my awareness or confession.