Runner’s High

Hitting the trail stoned is better than melting into the couch.

It is a goddamn transcendent spring day in March. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Golden Gate Park is abuzz with bikers, skaters, and pedestrians. The bison are milling about their enclosure. The Darker My Love album I’ve chosen to listen to during my run has never sounded better. I swear I can hear Frank O’Hara reciting poems in my head. My heart is pumping the blood through my body and it feels powerful and awesome. My legs feel strong and supple beneath me and it is invigorating and exhilarating. I am, to put it plainly, baked like a cake.

This is not a mistake. (Can smoking ever really be a mistake?) Shortly after donning the one sports bra I own — but before lacing up my shoes — I packed myself a decent-sized bowl and enjoyed it thoroughly. Then I laced up said shoes and hit the pavement, running all the way to Golden Gate Park and entering somewhere on the Richmond side.

It certainly wasn’t my first time running (or working out) high. I’m a longtime “exercising while high” advocate, and I’m just as happy to blaze for a long run as I am for strength training days. (Sometimes I wonder if the Planet Fitness employees notice my bloodshot eyes while I crank out hella reps, bro.) The painkilling effects of cannabis are the main appeal, and in this case, cannabis serves as a preventative painkiller. Smoking or vaping beforehand — the delayed release with edibles takes a bit of planning, but it is doable, and even recommended — helps nip muscle strain and exhaustion in the bud.

There’s even science to back it up. It goes like this: When you toke, 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 hit elevated levels when you exercise. Add in the cannabinoids from cannabis, and your pain threshold increases. Which is to say that you, dear reader- slash-toker-slash-runner, can go further and faster.

Running while high, of all things, is actually something of a hot topic. Outside and The Wall Street Journal have weighed in on how to do it. Elite triathlete Clifford Drusinsky eats a marijuana energy bar every day before he trains. Meanwhile, the ever-reliable section of the internet that’s devoted to discussing weed in lengthy-forum form is somewhat divided on the issue. Everyone’s down to make running day a high day, but some would rather make a fat indica- stuffed bowl part of the reward for their efforts, not part of the preparation.

However you do it, don’t overdo it. Stick to familiar trails and don’t attempt to break any records if you usually cruise at a comfortable 9:30 mile. The point is to dull muscle exhaustion so you can go a bit faster and longer. Smoking or vaping beforehand won’t make actual injury pain disappear or keep you from injuring yourself. It’s a dimmer, not a switch.

May the road rise up to meet you, San Francisco, and may you be high enough to clock a few personal bests on top of it.