Endorphins, according to Wikipedia (my most trusted source of information for all inquiries), are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during exercise and other activities, and resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.
From my personal experience with endorphins – and my conclusions are a bit less scientific – I’ve found that they turn me into an absolute crazy person. This has been evidenced in 100% of the races I’ve competed in. Luckily, for me and my fellow competitors, the crazy doesn’t manifest itself in a way that is hostile or over-competitive, but I do wish I could maintain some sort of dignity and composure instead of going off the deep end every time. My reaction to the surge of endorphins exercise gives me is a pure rollercoaster of emotion. Here is a list of some of the more resent, endorphin induced things I’ve done.
- During the Riverbank run this year, I attempted to lead a song and dance around mile 8. No one joined in.
- At the 2011 Grand Haven triathlon I got choked up at the sight of someone trying to fix a flat, apparently admiring their perserverence through all adversity. Later that race, I was overwhelmed with joy to see that same person sailing past me on the run… Getting beat is something I would not be typically thrilled about – I usually prefer to crush all of my opponents and then savor the sweet taste of victory in their demise.
- Mid Bayshore marathon I got a little bit too patriotic when someone was blaring Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”. I began a chant of “USA! USA!” complete with fist pumping. Again, no one joined in.
- And finally, and I don’t know why I’m admitting to this, my mind seems to go on a bit of an ego trip during every race. Every time I’m feeling good on the run, or pass someone on the bike, or leave the water ahead of my heat on the swim, I think to myself one or multiple of the following thoughts:
1. “I am REALLY really incredibly good at this.”
2. “I hope someone just saw that and wants to recruit me for their team.”
3. “I am the Blood of the Dragon”
4. “I am going to quit my job and be a professional athlete”
Although I usually feel a little bit embarassed / ashamed / stupid looking retrospectively at my races, I love the feeling of being so blissfully happy and fulfilled in what I’m doing. And since I’m usually racing alongside anywhere from 400 to 40,000 others, I know I can’t be the only one.
I thought about this the other day, while I was running. About how we are all there for the same reason. The same thrill. The same passion. And of course, since I’ve already proved that during exercise is not a safe time for me to be having any deep and profound epiphanies, I about lost it.