Runners High, Flow and Marathons – Ben Evans
Ben has an amazing story. In only a few years he went from a pub bet to being one of the most recently elite runners in the UK. Our interview can be heard below, but just as interesting is Ben’s take on the ‘Runners High’ Vs ‘Flow’ debate. Check out the article below, we think you will like it!
Flow and Running
Running is hard. That’s what I think almost every time I start on my 10 mile morning jaunt down the Basingstoke Canal. God, I’m unfit. Man, my right leg hurts. What are all these people doing out at this time? Pain, always pain. Why don’t I just go back to bed?
Then something funny happens. It takes a mile or two, normally when I pass the tramp with the yellow raincoat, before my running starts to feel normal. I begin to relax and think about how far I plan to go, how slow the first two miles were and how much I can now push to improve.
Then something really funny happens. I feel delighted. Running on this muddy path, alone, the morning clearing off the river, the sun coming up, feet splashing through puddles – seems like the best thing in the world. What else would I rather be doing right now? I run on, smiling to myself, thinking about what I’ll cook dinner, what good things I’ll do today, what great adventures I’ll plan for the weeks ahead. From a depressive lump I am transformed into a positive being. The world is there for me to run around.
Welcome to runners high. It is a feeling that can come at almost any level of exercise – from a brisk jog to full effort race. It doesn’t stay for the whole time – running is a journey of emotions – but it always appears, stays for a good few miles and then comes back at the end, lasting for about an hour – during breakfast and the trip to work. As the saying goes – you always feel better after a run – and it’s true. You’re high as a kite. That’s the reason most people do it.
A similar sensation, but one much harder to experience, is a sense of running ‘flow.’ This is something that I think only exists at the higher level of the sport – in competitive races – when the body is being pushed to its absolute limits. It comes at a time in the race when motivation is low and there are many miles still to go – blood has left the brain, fatigue is overwhelming and the only thoughts are work, work; toil, toil; suffer, suffer, suffer. You feel like you cannot go on any longer. There is nothing else to tell you to keep going. You just want to stop. Please stop.
But you don’t stop. You keep going and for some reason you start running even better than before. The voice in your head stops saying bad things and your mind and body relax. Flow takes over and running doesn’t seem hard anymore. You feel like you are floating over the road and that you can keep running forever.
Flow isn’t a high, it is more a feeling of levity. I’ve only had it about six times in my career – but every time it has been in the best performances I have ever run. I don’t know exactly what it is. It’s as if I have accessed an energy source away from mind or my body – a spiritual plain or a deep, internal soul – that has transported myself to a place where I am no longer trapped in the limits of physical and mental endurance.
Runners high is great and is the reason you see so many people running nowadays – it makes us happy, it makes us feel good – however for those wanting to take things more seriously, runners’ flow is the real motivator. There’s something in the experience that makes us feel different, above ourselves. For a few minutes we feel a light inside, telling us that there is something wonderful, something beyond the grind of day-to-day, something true and pure – something that makes us special, and that if we keep trying we can experience this any time, for the rest of our lives.
It isn’t true. The moment you start thinking you are in flow, the moment it disappears, but for a while you really believe.
I want to keep believing. I will keep on running towards that light.
Want to hear more? Listen to this podcast and interview with Ben Evans:
The Flow Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank Ben for his time and energy.