NOTE: I was scheduling to post this blog around Valentine’s day, but cosmic irony saw to it my content had more personal use than expected. Consider the following method tried and true 🙂
For all you (recently) single types, the better half will not refer to a person but rather a half marathon. For those looking for a full marathon script, read this caveat first.
In a couple of paragraphs, we should be able to explain the link between broken hearts and half marathon races.
The desire to run a half marathon is seldom an isolated thought.
A typical running survey lists the following reasons as key motivators:
- Improving physical fitness or “I keep losing my breath on top a flight of stairs, so something has to be done.”
- Weight loss or “Just a few kilograms between me and my summer at the beach, so something has to be done.”
- Relaxation or “Leaving the house keeps me sane, so something has to be done.”
I am convinced there is another popular reason to add: getting over a breakup!
From personal experience, I could easily add another unit to the pile. Quite honestly, the idea for my first marathon in 2014 had not been conceived without the awkward breakup that preceded it (on my birthday).
The idea that exercise can help you out of a depressed state (not unlike those first weeks/months/seasons after a break up) is not entirely new.
Several health benefits can be attributed to exercise in general, with the consensus being that a mere 20-30 mins of mild activity (walking, even gardening counts) per day can get your bluesy mood back on track.
But why is the half marathon so effective as a heartache cure? Can it really be a better half?
Part A: the running
We are neurologically hardwired to enjoy a good workout. One theory states that the early versions of the human body evolved to like running due long-distance endurance being key in chasing a tired prey.
After a fulfilling dose of hunt-worthy activity (estimation = +40 mins at +- 75% of Max Heart rate), our brain rewards us with a delicious cocktail of endocannabinoids, serotonin, adrenalin and dopamine.
Translation: Yes, you can spark the highly addictive runner’s high through intense exercise.
Part B: The racing
On top of the natural hormone blast provided by running, mass events such as a half marathon can offer another unexpected benefit.
Imagine making your way to the starting line of your maiden half marathon. The nerves and pre-excitement might lead to questions like:
- “Did I train enough for this?”
- “Should I drink something again?”
- “Is it weird if I have to pee a fifth time?”
Depending on your half marathon race location, you can look around and see between 50 to 50 000 people around you doing the exact same thing.
By the time the gun goes off, those brave souls are labeled by your brain as “friends“. This elicits an oxytocin release roughly equal to having a birthday party in your name with a comparable amount of attendants.
During the race, this experience gets increasingly more intense:
- Seeing other runners high-five their way to the finish? Oxytocin release!
- Getting positive feedback from complete strangers standing next to the course? Oxytocin release for both!
- Prolonging the endurance exercise due to the long race distance? Oxytocin release!
Part C: the result
Upon crossing that finish line, your bloodstream will contain an unusually high concentration of the brain peptide that rewards putting trust in others. Effectively making the biochemical state of a half marathon finisher similar to that of a woman who just gave birth.
For those runners coming out of a breakup, a half marathon finish can speed up the recovery process to the point that you are, at least physically, able to love again with full capacity!
NOTE: Maybe better to just start with a simple dinner date though 🙂
Breaking up hurts.
If you spot a friend or family member feeling a bit lovesick, I strongly suggest prescribing them a dose of vitamin Run. (NOTE: Same goes for yourself)
Running a half marathon will not:
- make you emotionally invincible or insensitive;
- burn your fat by the kilograms;
- make you forget the story you shared with another human. (Nor should it.)
Crossing that finish line is, by all means, a straightforward way to show yourself what you can do.
It will release a great deal of tension as race day marks the end of a monumental personal project.
After a most likely discomforting set of final kilometers, you too will enjoy the fruits of the hormonal glitter bomb offered by the grace of the running gods.
In the end, all that is left will be a profound sense of gratitude for the experience.
Much like after a breakup, really.