What Does Runner’s High *Actually* Feel Like? Here’s How 9 Runners Describe It

Ask an experienced marathoner why they run, and you’ll likely hear the term “runner’s high,” a sensation of extreme euphoria and bliss that comes over them during a run, pushing them to continue putting in the miles and leaving them elated for hours after.
As the name would suggest, the runner’s high phenomenon is, quite literally, a high. “Scientifically, an increased level of chemicals known as endorphins (aka happy hormones) are released inside the body, which relieves pain and gives pleasurable feelings after running or exercising,” explains Aura De Los Santos, clinical psychologist and medical advisor at Health Reporter. “The human’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS) also gets activated, producing therapeutic effects inside the body. These two processes collectively make one feel high and produce a state of euphoria.” 
No magic distance or time will trigger these processes — it could be 40 minutes, 10 miles, or hours after a run, and you likely won’t experience it on your first run, first five runs…or maybe ever. But is it elusive as it seems? In some ways, yes, but you don’t necessarily have to run a marathon in order to feel it. According to Dr. Dave Rabin, MD, PHD, board-certified psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and cofounder of Apollo, achieving runner’s high requires a specific level of comfort and relaxation during your run — and an ability to not get too in your head. “You’re not thinking about how you’re out of breath or sore, you get your rhythm and cadence down, and you become familiar with the movement of your arms and legs,” he says.
To help you get there, De Los Santos recommends running at a moderate intensity for as long of a distance as possible. Breathing techniques, upbeat and fast-paced music, or riveting scenery can help put you in the right state of mind. And, of course, consistency is key. “With anything, the more we become familiar with something, the more present we’re able to be with it,” says Dr. Rabin. “As we continue the practice over and over again, we train our bodies to enter into this state more easily...which is pretty neat.”

Everyone’s body is different, so how and when this flow state presents itself is unique to each individual, and the actual feeling of the experience will vary from runner to runner. That’s why we partnered with New Balance to learn what runner’s high feels like to nine runners of varying levels. Keep reading to learn what it takes for them to get there and the impact it has had on each of their personal running journeys.Add Products

Eliza Dumais, writer and editor
“Runner’s high, for me, is this rare, bizarre moment when my brain and my body feel like they’re moving at the same pace. By nature, I’m inclined towards anxiety, which involves a lot of rapid-fire cyclical thinking — and when I’m running, that doesn’t feel like a bad thing. My legs are moving as fast as my interior dialogue, and there’s a nice communion in that.
“It happens about two miles in. I’ve got to push myself to get there, but after that, it’s all autopilot; I’m just gliding. I think the secret to runner’s high is adjacent to that thing folks say about meditation (I’m a bad meditator, I prefer momentum): let your mind wander, it’s okay if your thinking spirals, it’s okay if you’re tired, it’s okay if your legs hurt, feel it all, keep going.”
Mackenzie Maus, creative consultant
“I’ve gone through countless phases in my fitness journey over the years: yoga and pilates stints, boxing attempts, hitting 15k steps at a rave, and couch potato-ing. However, through it all, I’ve found that I always come back to running. A few months back, post-breakup, I was seeking clarity and looking to expand my headspace, which is when I rediscovered the short-lived pleasure behind a runner’s high. It’s an almost immediate yet impermanent state of euphoria that, in my opinion, is why running tops any other form of physical activity. To get there, I’ll usually throw on some nu metal or a ’90s acid mixtape to set the tone; music always enhances my energy when I’m on a run.”
Michelle Dzumbunu, tech manager and founder of RunnersVantage Blog 
“Usually halfway through my longer 20-mile or so runs, I transcend beyond monitoring my breath and how my legs feel — or the fact that I’m even running. That’s when I know I have runner’s high. It’s this state of mind where you feel like you’re floating on cloud nine, like an out-of-body experience. There’s a sense of peace and stillness that transforms into joy by the end of my run.
“The beauty of it is that it isn’t dependent on anything but me. It’s on me to get over any mental barriers, put my shoes on, and get out there. It’s just me and the blessing and power of movement, and I think that’s what makes it so pure. With everything going on in the world, being able to tune out and tap into something that feels pure and simple, not complex, and do something for you is so important.”
Stephanie “Teff” Nnamani, visual artist and founder of Studio Theory
“My first experience with runner’s high left such an impression on me that I’m still running 13 years later. It’s very meditative. Even though there’s a lot of physical exertion, runner’s high is when I feel the most connected with myself. It’s difficult to put into words, but I’d say it’s like the affirmation, ‘I am at home with myself.’ I’m in my body, but I’m not of my body.
"It varies when — and if — I reach that point, but the last time it was three or four miles into a seven-mile run. It’s a big part of why I run, but I don’t chase the high, which is important. You won’t always get there, and it’s unfair to you or your body to deem your run ‘not enough’ if you don’t. Your body will do what is in its capacity to do at that moment, and that should always be enough.”
Chanel Shum, business analyst
“Runner’s high feels a little different each time I reach it, but it generally feels like a dopamine rush. It’s euphoric at times, and without it, I’m not sure I would run as many miles. I find that, for me, it’s directly correlated to exertion. I don’t get this specific type of hit from a quick, casual jog. There’s this sense of fulfillment in knowing I’m pushing myself; it’s like a reward for staying consistent and putting in the work. What I find to be the most impactful is that I can tap into it at any moment, at any point in the day. If it’s 3 p.m. on a Wednesday and I’m not in the best mood, I can go for a run and know I’ll feel better afterward. What’s more, it’s free and accessible; I don’t have to sign up for a fitness class or buy something to get there.”
Sydney Torabi, women’s health coach and online trainer
“To me, the endorphin release after a run is unlike any other. In that moment, I feel like I’m on top of the world, like I’m unstoppable and have accomplished something so grand. It’s very carefree and something that’s really not measurable, but it truly feels like a high. Runner’s high isn’t something I usually experience during the run, but rather after I run longer distances. Even so, I still find so much relief in putting foot to pavement and getting lost in a good playlist or podcast or simply the great outdoors — even if it’s just for a quick 20 minutes — because it allows me to simply tune out. It’s a great way to unplug.”
Ophelie Loblack, neuroscience researcher
“Runner’s high is one of the main reasons I run — it’s what keeps me coming back. In that moment, I feel strong and accomplished, like I can conquer the world. I don’t feel the weight of the world; I’m just existing in this euphoric state, feeling very present. I find that it’s easier to achieve a runner’s high when I run without expectations; those kinds of pressure-free runs end up being some of my best. Running with a group also helps me reach this point and prolong the feeling because I’m more inclined to keep pace in order to keep up with others, which gets me into that ideal rhythm.”
Jamie Pratt, tech solutions designer and 5Run2 volunteer run club leader
“Many runners are drawn to meditation and guided breathing, but I’ve found that I don’t love to sit still, close my eyes, and be quiet. For me, running is where I find that calmness and ability to think openly. I experience a runner’s high slightly differently every time, but I usually reach it any time I run over two or three miles. Once I reach that point, and my muscles feel warmed up and loose, there’s this cyclical feeling of my legs moving in a repetitive motion and hitting the ground consistently. It feels like a metronome to me, like a rhythm. I listen to fast-paced, upbeat music when I run, and I match my cadence to the beat of the song — then my breathing aligns with that, and I kind of forget that I’m running in the first place. It’s a great pick-me-up; it always grounds me and brings me back to my purpose.”
Lucía Caballero, law school student
“Runner’s high is a sense of euphoria that hits me during the middle of my runs; this special moment when I begin to feel really strong and empowered. It’s my favorite feeling in the world, and I consider it a huge factor in why I run, especially because I’m not currently running professionally or for a team. I’m really only doing it for myself. Between balancing an emotionally taxing job and law school, it’s become a way to keep my mental health in check and take much-needed time back for myself. This is a very New York City-specific thing, but I find that running across a bridge helps me reach this point — the beautiful views make me feel so in awe of my life, and the downhill feels amazing. It's fail-safe; it always works.”Toggle panel: Credits

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