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Monday, March 20, 2023

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Runner’s High

Getting stoned down the path is better than melting into the bank.

It’s a damn transcendent spring day in March. The sun shines. The birds are singing. Golden Gate Park is bustling with cyclists, skaters and pedestrians. The bison scurry around their enclosure. The Darker My Love album I chose to listen to on my run has never sounded so good. I swear I can hear Frank O’Hara reciting poems in my head. My heart is pumping blood through my body and it feels powerful and wonderful. My legs feel strong and supple under me and it is invigorating and exciting. I am, to put it plainly, baked like a pie.

This is not a mistake. (Can smoking ever really be a mistake?) Shortly after putting on the only sports bra I own—but before putting on my shoes—I grabbed myself a pretty big bowl and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I laced up those shoes and went up the curb, ran all the way to Golden Gate Park, and entered somewhere on the Richmond side.

It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d run (or workout) high. I’ve been a longtime advocate of “exercising while high,” and I’m just as happy to blow for long durations as I am for days of strength training. (Sometimes I wonder if the Planet Fitness employees see my bloodshot eyes as I pull out hella reps, bro.) The analgesic effects of cannabis are the main draw, and in this case cannabis serves as a preventative pain reliever. Pre-smoke or vape—the slow-release edibles take some planning, but it’s doable and even recommended—helps nip muscle tension and exhaustion in the bud.

There’s even science to back it up. It goes like this: When you take, cannabinoids bind with receptors in your brain and body called the endocannabinoid system (responsible for your natural runner’s high, in addition to regulating semi-important things like pain, memory, mood, appetite, motor control , and fertility). Your naturally occurring endocannabinoids reach elevated levels when you exercise. Add the cannabinoids from cannabis and your pain threshold will rise. That is to say, dear reader-slash-toker-slash-runner, you can go further and faster.

Running while high is actually a hot topic. Outside and The Wall Street Journal weighed in on how to do it. Elite triathlete Clifford Drusinsky eats a marijuana energy bar every day before exercising. Meanwhile, the ever-reliable section of the internet devoted to discussing weed in long forum form is somewhat divided on the matter. Everyone wants to make a great day of running, but some prefer to make a fat indica-filled bowl part of the reward for their efforts, not the preparation.

However you do it, don’t overdo it. Stick to familiar trails and don’t try to break records if you usually cruise a comfortable 9:30 mile. The point is to reduce muscle exhaustion so you can go a little faster and longer. Smoking or vaping beforehand will not make the actual injury pain go away or you will not injure yourself. It’s a dimmer, not a switch.

May the road go up to meet you, San Francisco, and may you be high enough to build some personal bests there.

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