Running on Low

Back in 1967 the Berkeley Barb pulled one of the all-time great goofs when it spread a rumor that one could scrape the inside of banana peels, dry them, and produce a psychedelic smoke with the properties of DMT. It even gave a recipe that involved a whopping 15 pounds of bananas. Soon, gullible hippies had cleaned out the banana supply of the greater San Francisco area.

I mention this because I’ve come to believe that runners’ high is Phase II of the “Mellow Yellow” goof. I’ve had a lot of time to contemplate fraud lately as I’ve been running in circles around an indoor track. Why indoors? It’s February, I live in New England, and a person who runs outside might as well take a hammer, break his own ankle, and skip the running bit. But with the possible exceptions of ice fishing and watching NASCAR on TV, there’s nothing on the planet that’s more boring than running indoor loops (8 per mile) and even then it drops to number three solely because of the invention of the iPod. (Try slipping iPod earphones under ear muffs while ice fishing!)

But indoors/outdoors is all the same. I’ve been running for thirty years and have never once had runners’ high. Oxygen deprivation—sure! Searing pain in my joints and muscles? You betcha. Runners’ high? No way. If you believe the research, running can cause the pituitary gland and hypothalamus to release endorphins. Sure; and scientists used to believe in Piltdown Man as well. I suspect that runners’ high is a myth concocted by Nike to sell more shoes. But I’ll reserve final judgment until I’ve tried running under the influence of bananas.--LV

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