The Runner’s High: What It Is & How to Get It

The Runner’s High: What It Is & How to Get It


The runner’s high is a sometimes-elusive state that happens during or after a run, that keeps runners coming back for more.

It’s like a drug.

Almost literally (but we’ll get into that later).

But why can some runner’s can achieve a runner’s high almost every run…while other’s find it elusive?

You may be wondering; “what exactly is the runner’s high” and “how the heck can I get it?”.

And those are all great questions! You’re definitely not alone in wondering them.

I’ll answer those, and more, to help you uncover the secrets to achieving the runner’s high and riding the wave to euphoric running!

What is the Runner’s High?

What is the Runner's High?

The runner’s high is that glorious, elated, happy feeling that a runner feels during, or after, a run!

It’s usually felt by an intense flood of happiness, a rush to the head, and/or a general feeling of invincibility.

Runners who experience this sensation during or after a run are PUMPED to be running, LOVE their accomplishment, and report not feeling any aches & pains.

Side note: be wary of making any important decisions while on a runner’s high 🙂 You’ll want to do everything and anything in this moment.

Scientifically-Speaking, What is the Runner’s High?

Scientists used to think the runner’s high happened because of increased endorphins flowing to our brain during exercise.

Endorphins are chemicals released into to your brain when stress or pain is experienced by your body (aka, exercise), that results in an elevated mood, the sensation of feeling less pain(1). They’re the body’s natural “happy” chemical.

However, German researchers have a new hypothesis:

German researchers have shown the brain’s endocannabinoid system—the same one affected by marijuana’s Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—may also play a role in producing runner’s high, at least in mice (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2015, DOI: 10.1072/pnas.1514996112)

So….running is like smoking marijuana?

Not exactly haha, but the brain may think so.

Either way – the runner’s high is likely a product of exercise stress + chemicals in the brain.

So why are runner’s addicted to this euphoric feeling?

Why Runners LOVE the Runner’s High

Who doesn’t love being swept away by an overwhelming feeling of happiness?

But seriously, the runner’s high fuels us to keep running, to push through, even when they’re tired, burnt out, or just trying to get through an intense run.

Knowing that your mind and body will soon be on cloud 9 is a GREAT reason to lace up your running sneakers and head out the door (even if you don’t really want to today).

The runner’s high pushes many runners through intense training bouts – while keeping a smile on their faces. Makes us sound crazy, but if you’ve ever experienced a runner’s high yourself…you’ll understand!

And if you haven’t experienced it, I HIGHLY encourage you to give it a try!

But that leads to the question…how do you get the runner’s high?

How to Get the Runner’s High

Well this is the tricky part.

There is no hard a fast rule.

I know…not the answer you wanted.

Some experienced runners get it after just 4 miles. Some after 10 or more. Some 10+.

Paul J. Arciero, M.S., F.A.C.S.M., professor in the health and exercise sciences department at Skidmore College says:

it takes at least one hour of nonstop activity, but “two hours seems to be the sweet spot for encountering it,” so the longer the workout, the better your chances. The University of Heidelberg study, which was done on rodents, showed an impact when the subjects averaged over three miles daily.

Plus, research (and anecdotal evidence from many runners) indicates that the more you run, the more likely you are to experience the runner’s high.

Running consistently + higher mileage + moderate pace = runner’s high.

I can attest to this phenomenon personally – as someone who never ran until I was in my 20’s, the first couple months were a slow, somewhat painful and frustrating, ramp up.

However, once I started hitting 5 or 6 mile runs – BOOM! I was smacked in the face with the happiest, most satisfied and elated feeling I’d ever felt before by the end of each run!

It was glorious. And addictive (in the best possible way).

My anxiety basically went away. I looked forward to training. I woke up every morning (admittedly still groggy) but pushed through knowing that the runner’s high awaited me.

Want to experience a runner’s high yourself? Are you ready? Read on.

But I’m New to Running – Can I Get It?

Unfortunately, many people who are new to running and just starting out, won’t experience it right away.

Which is a huge bummer, because I am firmly convinced that everyone’s first run should include a glowing runner’s high at the end, like a medal, or a “thank you” gift.

Part of the reason that new runners won’t catch the elusive runner’s high right away is that it generally happens after a “long run”, when a runner has been running consistently, as mentioned earlier.

And most new runners start with lower mileage first (rightfully so).

BUT – the promise of working your way up to an INCREDIBLE mid-or-post run rush should motivate you to keep going!! It’s the best gift a long distance runner can get (besides increased endurance, faster speed, and a myriad other running benefits, that is).

I Want The Runner’s High! What Do I Do Next?

Start running, silly! 🙂

I know it sounds a little cliche, but honestly, the best way is to run more, run consistently, and run longer.

Not sure where to start?

Are you completely new to running? Start here, with a free 7 Day Learn to Run Challenge.

Have you dabbled in running, but have been out of the game for a while? Try a 5K training plan to start.

Are you an experienced runner? Maybe you want to increase your endurance so you can run further? Or run a Boston qualifying marathon?

Whatever you do next, may the euphoric runner’s high await you at the next turn!

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