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Runners Turn To Cannabis To Make It To The Finish Line

Giving New Meaning To The Term Runners' High

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DanaSmith on Tuesday Aug 28, 2018
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Runners Turn To Pot To Make It To The Finish Line

Running is by no means a new or trendy way to stay fit.


However, runners are now, more increasingly than ever, turning to pot to help them achieve their fitness goals. Runners, or athletes in particular, are more vocal today about how cannabis complements their athletic lifestyle in many ways. Not only do many of them find pot as a natural and therapeutic means to enhance their performance, but many also use it to assist with recovery and even have more fun running.


In fact, many runners use pot to make their run sessions bearable.


In an article on Tonic by Vice, an NYC runner given the name of Carolyn Ford, discusses how cannabis helps with her runs. “Running while stoned is therapeutic. It helps me concentrate on the small movements of my body and adapt accordingly to improve my form,” she says.


The New York Times recently released an article about runners who smoke during the world-famous 4/20 holiday, which made it clear that runners using pot isn’t a fad – it’s an accepted way of life for many of these hardcore runners. “You have two different reasons potentially for using cannabinoids,” says cannabinoid researcher Marcel Bonn-Miller, of the University of Pennsylvania. “Once is to enhance your ability to train. The other is recovery oriented,” Bonn-Miller says. Runners’ training sessions are no joke, considering all that they have to put in during a routine session that can last up to 5 hours in a day.


The Tonic article also includes insight from Colorado ultrarunner Avery Collins, who began to incorporate THC into his training runs 4 years ago, specifically consuming pot in the form of vape pens or edibles. “The immediate difference I noticed was that I didn’t mind what speed I was going,” Collins says. “I was more fulfilled and happy with every run, and found that I just enjoyed every run much more.” Collins explains that he uses cannabis in most of his runs, just like the other ultrarunners that he knows of. “I honestly can’t tell you the last time I met an ultrarunner who wasn’t also a cannabis user,” Collins said. 


However, Collins warns that runners who are interested in using pot to be cautious of how much they use especially in the beginning, since overdoing it is so easy. “I’ve taken too much, and I sat on the couch for hours,” he said. “That’s torture for me.”


The Runner’s High and Cannabis, Explained


The runner’s high is similar to the endorphin rush that we all experience after a great workout. This phenomenon has been understood since the 80’s, and current research told us that it’s based on the theory that endorphins interact with the brain’s receptors to decrease pain perceptions, while also adding to that euphotic feeling.


But a 2015 study challenges a new theory. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that this high could actually be produced because of our very own endocannabinoids. To conduct the study, researchers from the Central Institute of Mental Health of the University of Heidelberg provided some animal subjects with running wheels. They noticed that after their runs, the mice exhibited less anxiety and improved pain perception.


Then the mice were given drugs to block their own endocannabinoid system, revealing shocking results: the animals were not only less anxious, but they were also more sensitive to feeling of pain. “We thus show for the first time to our knowledge that cannabinoid receptors are crucial for the main aspects of a runner’s high,” says the researchers.


Another study points to leptin, a hormone which has been given the nickname of the “satiety hormone.” Leptin is responsible for regulating our energy stores, and it tells the body when it has accumulated enough energy and fuel. The researchers from the University of Montreal discuss that it’s possible for leptin levels to drop in the middle of a workout, which could “send a hunger signal to the brain’s pleasure center to generate the rewarding effects of running.”


Is Cannabis the Next Performance-Enhancing Drug?


While cannabis is still a Schedule 1 substance, it may be a long time until we see it being given the green light to be used as a “supplement” by athletes. This is especially due to its THC content. CBD, on the other hand, was recently removed from the list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).


WADA is the organization responsible for overseeing drug testing during the Olympics, as well as setting anti-doping guidelines used in international sports leagues.


On September 29, 2017, WADA released a statement saying, “Cannabidiol is no longer prohibited,” but they do warn that THC is still banned. “Cannabidiol extracted from cannabis plants may contain varying concentrations of THC.”


Until then, runners who choose to use cannabis may be racing on a tight line.


Why Runners are using Cannabis to Improve Training from CannabisNet on Vimeo.








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