Runner’s high is taking on a new meaning as elite endurance athletes start fessing up to using cannabis while training to help them endure boredom, reduce pain, and ease nausea. Ultrarunner Jenn Shelton, who was featured in the bestselling book Born to Run, has praised the performance-enhancing effects of pot in publications ranging from High Times to the Wall Street Journal. Pro ultrarunner Avery Collins has also sung MJ’s praises, as has age-grouper Jeff Sperber and age-group triathlete Clifford Drusinsky.
That doesn’t mean we condone the practice. But we don’t believe in abstinence-only education, so we asked rookie ultrarunner and cannabis consumer Lauren Steinheimer to elucidate the finer points of running high.
Know Before You Go
First and foremost, know how the cannabis is going to affect you. It can be easier to regulate dosage while smoking because it produces an immediate high, but most runners don’t want to mess with their lungs and turn to edibles instead.
It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to feel the effects of edibles, depending on the individual, so run only after the effects take hold to avoid overdoing your dose. Because you really, really don’t want to overdo it. While lower doses often lead to a relaxed physical state and sense of well-being, or a “body high,” high doses can bring on an acid-trip type of experience with hallucinations and possible paranoia. Once the drug kicks in, the high can last from four to ten hours, or possibly longer.
To make edible dosing even trickier, medical and recreational marijuana is not regulated by the FDA, which means that the dosage listed on packaged edibles may not be accurate. I’ve gotten way more stoned from a chocolate-covered espresso bean that claimed to contain five mg of THC than a hard candy labeled as having 25 mg. Unless you’re experienced in making the edibles yourself, or have them tested, there’s really no way of knowing how strong they are before you eat them. So even if you’re familiar and comfortable with eating ganja goodies, don’t try something new prior to embarking on a long run through the woods.
Also, consider that exercise can intensify the effects of THC, the chemical behind most of marijuana’s psychological effects. You don’t want to be 10 miles into the mountains and suddenly feel like you need to take a nap because THC makes you sleepy, then find yourself dozing off in the middle of the woods with no food or shelter.
So practice dosing in a safe environment, like on a group hike with friends who can look after you. Your ideal dosage should leave you feeling relaxed, but focused enough to tackle a long run on challenging terrain.
Don’t Get Lost
There’s bottomless research on THC’s inhibitory effects on memory. If you’re trying to do anything fancier than an out-and-back run or a continuous loop, plan your route before you get high.
Trust me, it’s a major buzzkill to be in the middle of a nice long run and start wondering why nothing looks familiar. Because then you’re going to get paranoid. Am I going the wrong way? Did I pass this fallen tree before? God, I feel like I’ve been out here forever! Am I going to die? I’m dying.
If you have a smartphone, there are plenty of great topo map apps that use GPS to help you find your way, like MyTopo Maps and BackCountry Nav. Although you can’t always trust you’ll get a signal in some remote areas, so it’s best to consider packing a map and compass, or write yourself some notes. As with any long run, stoned or not, you should carry a phone on you and make sure to tell someone where you will be.
Of course, you were going to do that anyway. But make sure you bring enough food and water to satisfy the less-desirable side effects of cannabis. I’m talking about dry mouth, or any other uncomfortable side effects that plague you.
Pack some chewing gum, extra water, and maybe something that feels really good in your mouth, because being stoned enhances the tactile experience of eating. Personally, I prefer soft and mushy foods when I’m stoned, like bananas or Fig Newtons. Other people like crisp and crunchy foods, like an apple. Being high can lead you to fixate on that unpleasant feeling of sugar coating your mouth, so I would advise avoiding sugary energy drinks or gels.
Get Home Safely
Driving while stoned can still get you a DUI, or worse. Don’t do it. On top of being stoned, you may be extra stoned from exercising. On top of that, if you’ve been running for a while, you may have low blood sugar, which can keep your brain from operating at full capacity. So whether you’re using cannabis or not, don’t plan on driving immediately after a long run. Bring a cell phone and call someone to pick you up.
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