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Any ideas on what I’m feeling.

Joined: 18 Nov 2021
Posts: 2
Montana, United States
Posted: Thu 18 Nov 2021 06:18 pm GMT   topTop
Hello everyone. I am not much of a runner outside of the summertime but I am a backcountry hunter but I have some questions that I was hoping that some of you may have some insight on.
Yesterday I had a big day of about 15 miles half of which I was carrying a 90 pound pack and did about 7000 feet in elevation. The half of the trip with the large pack is packing out an animal after a successful hunt. This happens about 8 times a year and the most of the rest of the year I am doing about 8 miles per day in the mountains.
My question is this - after one of these days I am mentally and physically exhausted. But there is something going on where it feels like I would imagine drug addicts feel in that I am immediately trying to figure out where I am going to “get my next fix” of that experience. It’s not the success or the experience but the physical pain cave that I’ve just come out of that I am seeking. While I’m in it it sucks but once is over I start looking for a way to do it again. Can anyone chime in on the chemical reaction that is happening when you treat your body like this and why it might be such an addiction?
I realize that this isn’t running but I have looked all around and it seems that long distance runners may experience a similar feeling.
Thank you for any insight.
Joined: 25 Aug 2006
Posts: 196
Utah, United States
Posted: Thu 18 Nov 2021 06:42 pm GMT   topTop
Interesting question! You are definitely right about ultrarunners having a similar experience. I have commonly said to myself at some point in the second half of the race, "This sucks, I hate this, I'm never doing this again". A few days to a week later - sometimes even the next day - I'm thinking "That was awesome, I want to do it again". I know I'm not the only one. I think most if not all ultrarunners go through the same thing. And regular (normal) people naturally think we're crazy. We probably are, ha ha.

I really don't know why it happens. Maybe it requires a certain personality type, because certainly ultrarunners and endurance athletes of all kinds (including backcountry hunters like yourself) are not that common compared to the rest of the population.

Are you sure, though, that you are looking for a way to experience the pain again? For me, I tend to forget the pain - it's like my brain only remembers the positive aspects, the satisfaction of having done something amazing. Part of it is overcoming the challenge, yes, and I know I had pain -- but I don't re-experience any pain with the memory, just that I did something cool and overcame a hardship and that's what I want to do again.

My wife has talked about how it's similar with childbirth. In the moment, you NEVER want to do it again; it's excruciating pain. But, somehow... as the days go on, you can't remember the intensity of it any more, and the positive aspects of having given birth to a child, and having that child in your life, becomes the dominant emotion and memory.

I do know that some recovered/recovering drug or alcohol addicts have found ultrarunning to be a way to cope, a sort of substitute to the addiction. So I do think there's something to the addict type personality and it's relation to whatever brain chemicals are activated with physical pain caused by endurance type activities.

[edited: Thu 18 Nov 2021 06:46 pm]
Joined: 18 Nov 2021
Posts: 2
Montana, United States
Posted: Fri 19 Nov 2021 03:03 am GMT   topTop
Thanks for the reply. It is definitely NOT in search of the pain. Info could find a way to do it without the suffering I think I would. I think there must be some kind of endorphin dump that goes on. This is what I would like to better understand. I feel as though there must be some kind of chemical reaction happening and that is what I am looking for… I think.

[edited: Fri 19 Nov 2021 03:20 pm]
Joined: 27 Oct 2022
Posts: 4
Pennsylvania, United States
Posted: Fri 28 Oct 2022 11:31 pm GMT   topTop
Maybe just wired differently. I definitely seek out the fight and the pain of long endurance workouts.
Joined: 04 Apr 2024
Posts: 5
Mumbai, India
Posted: Thu 11 Apr 2024 09:09 am GMT   topTop
Quite an old conversation, but yes, that is how most of us runners feel.