Is The ‘Runner’s High’ Real? We Asked 4 Pros To Weigh In

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If you searched Google images for "photos of women running," you'd be met with hundreds of pages of smiling faces, perfect ponytails, and nary a drop of sweat in sight. "That is not running," says Kelly Roberts, founder of the BadAssLadyGang women's running community. "If you put some fire underneath them, and that meme with the mug that says: 'Everything's Fine,' that's running."

The elusive "runner's high" has led many of us to believe that logging miles should be as easy as the women in the stock photos make it look. We expect to lace up our sneakers, head out onto the road, and have the endorphins kick in immediately so that it feels like we're floating on air. But in the latest episode of the Well+Good Podcast, Roberts—along with Nike Master Trainer Traci Copeland, competitive runner and advocate Jordan Marie Daniel, and runner and advocate Mirna Valerio—sat down with senior producer Taylor Camille to chat about what it's really like to be a runner. Though there's a lot more grit involved than those sweat-free, smiling photo faces let on, the moments when they do feel like they're floating make it all worth it.

Experts In This Article
  • Jordan Marie Daniel, Jordan Marie Daniel is a competitive marathoner and advocate for Indigenous communities. She fights for justice and visibility, as it intersects across all movements of climate, racial, social, and economic justice.
  • Kelly Roberts, Kelly Roberts is a digital creator and the founder of the @BadassLadyGang, a by-and-for women’s running community redefining what it means to be strong.
  • Mirna Valerio, Mirna Valerio is a runner, adventurer and advocate for inclusion in the running community towards people of all races, sizes, genders, and backgrounds.
  • Traci Copeland, Nike Master Trainer, yoga instructor, and fitness model

We know, from science, that the runner's high is the real deal. "Runner's high is the euphoric chemical rush of happiness one will experience after engaging in exercise after a specific period of time," Hillary Cauthen, PsyD, CMPC, a certified mental performance consultant and E-board member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, previously told Well+Good. "It fluctuates over how many minutes in duration one must exercise until they feel that 'rush' of excitement and awesomeness. In a way, it's your body signaling through the pain to push beyond the discomfort zone and have you continue to enjoy the process involved with hard work and exercise."

Though this is a fairly universal experience, there's no singular way that runners describe this feeling hitting them. "It doesn't happen in the first five minutes, and sometimes it doesn't even happen within the first twenty," says Copeland, who says she has a "love/hate" relationship to running. "For me, it feels like you can run indefinitely. Like you're invincible." Valerio describes her own experience with runner's high as being like "time doesn't exist," Daniel thinks of it as a "flow state," and Roberts equates it to the feeling of taking a deep breath in the middle of an intense crying session.

The emotional release that comes from running is totally unique to you, and though it may take some time to get there, you don't have to be training for a 10K or a marathon to experience it for yourself. "What makes you a runner is putting on some running shoes," says Copeland. "I think the moment you decide to run, you're a runner."

To hear more from their conversation—including their tips for getting out and logging your first miles—press play on the episode above.

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