I first began using cannabis on long runs because a doctor told me to. It started when physician friend of mine called me concerned one morning, “You have to stop taking Advil before long runs. I just read a study that showed you could be harming your kidneys.” Immediately, my heart sunk, and phantom pains began shooting through my quads and hip flexors. No Advil?! How else was I supposed to withstand my favorite hobby—pounding my feet against asphalt, up and down hills, for hours on end?
Then, she dropped the good news. “You should just take an edible instead.” An edible. Why hadn’t I thought of this? Was there really a way to bring my second favorite hobby—consuming cannabis—into my weekend warrior sessions? There was, and there is. Since replacing ibuprofen with cannabis, I’ve never looked back.
It may surprise some that I’m both an avid runner and a marathon smoker, but science suggests that the two are more closely linked than one may imagine. Researchers have found that the euphoric feeling runners chase is created in the body’s endocannabinoid system. In other words, the same receptors that get us stoned also give us a runner’s high. I generally use low doses of cannabis to manage my pain on my solo training runs.
I’ve always enjoyed the company of both other runners and other cannabis users, though, and wondered what it would be like to meet regularly with other canna-athletes for a pre-run session.
I put together a list of active people who I knew used cannabis, and emailed them my proposal: I wanted to start a cannabis running club. We would meet once a week on Sunday mornings for a four-mile run. Since most of the people I was running with were not distance runners, I chose a distance that would be accessible for runners of any experience level. I would provide the cannabis, they would hold me accountable to stay on track for my most recent round of marathon training.
I was immediately hit back with several enthusiastic responses. “OMG! This is amazing!” “IN.” Forget the image of cannabis users being sloths on the couch, covered in a pile of blankets and Cheeto dust. We would be awake at 7 a.m. on a Sunday, wearing spandex and a can-do attitude. Well, two of us would be, anyway.
“The euphoric feeling runners chase is created in the body’s endocannabinoid system. In other words, the same receptors that get us stoned also give us a runner’s high.”
As I made my way through the morning marine layer on I-5 toward Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, texts came dinging into my Apple Watch. “So sorry! My alarm didn’t go off!” “Need to sleep! Next time!” By the time I arrived at what had been our scheduled meeting place, only one person, my friend Crystal, had actually ponied up. Crystal is one of those friends I endearingly refer to as a “bad influence on me.” It turned out one bad influence was all I needed to make a healthy decision on this bleary-eyed morning.
We each took a few hits from my vape pen. I’d brought with me Blue Dream, a nice energetic strain. We stretched, and took one more hit for good measure. Just like that, the grumpy cloudiness of my fatigue cleared away. We high-fived, popped in our headphones, and hit the trail.
In both cannabis consumption and running, I think it’s important for people to set their own pace. For this reason, when I run with others, I like to meet them at the beginning and end of the trail, and let them take their run at whichever speed they’re comfortable with. When Crystal and I finished, we (high) high-fived once more. Now, we were both visibly more upbeat and alert than we had been when we started. “That was fun!” Crystal told me, “I really got in the zone with my music. It was like being in a video game. I do feel like I got cottonmouth pretty quickly.” We both headed for a nearby water fountain, and took a swig before taking one more drag from the vape pen.
The following week, in an attempt to coax my group into actually showing up, I set our meeting time for an hour later, and reminded everyone that just getting out of bed was the hard part. This time, Crystal made it again, as did two of my other friends, Amy and Josh.
Since Crystal had mentioned getting dry mouth the week before, I had brought packets of electrolyte mix for everyone to drop into their water bottles. Hydration is always important in running, and it can be easy to get dehydrated on early morning runs when you haven’t had much time before the run to load up on water. This should be done the night before, and I had reminded people of this in my email to them. Insufficient hydration coupled with the lower amounts of saliva that can result from THC consumption can make for an unpleasant run. #themoreyouknow
We all alternated between sipping from our electrolyte drinks and dragging from the vape pen. With a few more people here, we all got a little more giggly and talkative as the cannabis woke us up. “This is the first time I’ve felt productive wake ’n’ baking,” my friend Josh noted, before adding that he planned on getting donuts to reward himself later. After about 30 minutes or so, I urged everyone to get started.
Though I had been using cannabis during runs for a while, doing it with first-timers gave me a new appreciation for the experience. One of the things I love most about running is that it keeps me in the present moment, away from my phone, with nothing to do or think about except putting one foot in front of another. Cannabis helped heighten my senses as I did this. The eucalyptus trees smelled more fragrant. The mountains on the horizon glowed in the morning sun.
“One of the things I love most about running is that it keeps me in the present moment ... with nothing to do or think about except putting one foot in front of another.”
When we wrapped up, once more my buddies echoed to me that they’d had one of the most fun runs of their lives. Later that day, my friend Amy texted to tell me that after coming home, she’d sat down and finished a draft of the children’s book she’d been working on for weeks. “What was that vape? I seriously think that cured my writer’s block!” Though I agree that Blue Dream can be a great strain to boost creativity, I suspected that Amy’s run had more to do with her success than anything.
Studies have found that runs as short as 10 minutes can help improve focus. In his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in running, or creativity, or both), author Haruki Murakami writes, “Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice.”
As the weeks progressed, attendance to my running club fluctuated. Some Sundays, it was just myself and one other person, some weeks people brought new friends, and we had as many as 10 people sharing the peace pen before hitting the trail. My Saturday long runs had begun to ramp up, a time in my training cycle during which I historically feel the impulse to skip Sunday recovery runs.
Knowing that there would be people waiting for me at the park expecting a high five and a hit of vape made it impossible to hit snooze and say “screw it.” We all felt, too, that the promise of a THC buzz also made it easier to feel motivated to show up.
Because I was running more mileage on the weekends, I also began to incorporate more CBD into my post-run routine, and I suggested my fellow canna-runners do the same to combat any soreness. I offered up CBD gummies to anyone who wanted them after our runs, and after showering at home, I used CBD lotion on my quads and glutes.
The lotion’s anti-inflammatory properties resulted in a warm numbing sensation that soothed my tight muscles. “It’s kind of like if Icy Hot smelled like weed instead of chemicals,” Josh remarked of the lotion, after I brought some for him to try one Sunday.
On our last Sunday together, I brought a premium pre-rolled joint for our “club” to reward ourselves with when we were done. I’d like to tell you that our final session was well-attended, that my fellow runners showed up in droves for one final high hoorah. In reality, it was just Josh and I, both suited up and wearing sunglasses to shield our half-awake eyes. “The good news is,” I told him, “That we’ll have this whole joint to ourselves.”
“The even better news,” Josh told me, “Is that we should just smoke that and go get brunch.” I thought about protesting, but the 18 miles I’d ground out the day before had left my legs throbbing. I nodded and took out my lighter to spark up. Sometimes the best decision you can make is listening to a friend who is a bad influence on you.