The Running Drug

The trees outside my window waved vigorously, their movement dissuading me from any outdoor time. I checked the weekend temperature, and 30s looked back at me. But with my cycling partner Felkerino under the weather this weekend, I was left with a window of time to do as I pleased.

While the lure of the couch was strong, I struggled into my workout clothes and threw some shoes on my feet. The ongoing threat of holiday parties combined with a fear of diminishing my Iowa cred (which I note is likely already lost by 30-degree temperatures in December serving as a deterrent) guilted me out the door.

I set my fitness goal at five miles and started my Garmin to keep me honest. My cold stiff body ambled down the road like the Tin Man and I counted the minutes until I’d be back home, finished with my run and reunited with the sofa.

Hains Point Running

Miles passed and my body loosened up. I felt like an appropriately oiled Tin Man now. As I ran, my brain furiously processed, my fingers ached with the winter warm-up throbs, and my feet kept padding stubbornly forward.

The overcast chilly day could not be considered inviting, but the conditions made the roads quiet. A steady crosswind pushed into me and I anticipated turning directions. Step step step.

As sometimes happens, my mind shifted from thinking and words and my day-to-day life. I drifted into a meditative state, with my body nice and toasty despite the cold of the day.

The five-mile fitness run I intended became a 12-mile meander around town, because I wanted to spend as long as I could chasing this self-supplied sensation. I suppose it’s what others call the runner’s high, and it intoxicated.

I’ve never been a competitive or particularly good runner, but I’ve liked it ever since I took it up in high school. Running is so simple and basic, and it can unlock my head unlike any other physical activity I’ve tried.


It frees me to overcome inertia and take the first step of a run by myself on a cold overcast day, while others hole up indoors. To move completely unassisted empowers. And when I sync my mind with my body’s effort and meld with the day’s conditions and the space around me, a rare and pleasurable experience emerges.

Maybe I won’t always be able to run. People say it’s hard on the body, it can wreck your knees, blah blah blah. But I will run as long as I am able – not just for fitness, but in hopes of releasing my mind and the running drug.


    • Try to cycle as much as I can but it will never replace running. Running whatever the weather you dress appropriately put your trainers on and just head out the door. If your feeling particularly good you can extend your planned route or shorten it if you need to. You’ve no worries about mechanical problems or the treaded puncture as well. Oh how I want to run but with a hiatal hernia and acid reflux all I have read advised me not to. But boy do I wish I could. My advice to everyone enjoy it because hopefully it will not happen like me you may not be able to one day.


  1. I have always resisted running because it seemed that everyone I knew who ran treated it primarily as a competitive activity. I didn’t want to get into that. Thank you for posting this and showing that it can be something entirely different.

    Like you, I have been affected by the abrupt 30 degree days. I wasn’t in the mood to ride today so I hiked 10 miles instead. A couple of times, I got the urge to step it up a little but resisted.

    Maybe the next time I’ll give it a try.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. After a summer trying to get back into running, I can now hit 3.5 miles uninterrupted and each step is no longer agonizing. Thanks for the inspiration to bump it up to the next level.


  3. Years ago I took up running when I moved back to Vermont just to get me through the winter, but gradually I loved running and entered several races and trail running events. I loved the simplicity of running. I loved the people I met through running. I gave up running several years ago, but the friendships remained. I will always have those people people in my life and memories of wonderful runs together.


  4. The colder, wetter weather sure is a deterrent, but once out there in it and warmed up it’s surprising how satisfying I find it to achieve my usual run or bike ride, or more. We shouldn’t let the grey skies put us off stepping foot out of the door.


  5. Cycling does that for me, but keeping warm is harder. I struggle with that same siren call of the couch! The feet aren’t as active, so it’s harder to stay/get warm WHILE riding.


  6. years ago, when i was struggling through depression and anxiety [domestic abuse] the physician who was attending my needs told me to “get out and run.”
    so i did. i ran with my sled dogs, up into the hills beyond my hinterland property. it did me worlds of good.

    beautiful post, thank you for writing!!



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