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Making Strides: Cannabis and Running

I ran my first half marathon stoned.

When I picked up my packet minutes before the bus to the race sight was to take off, the nice church ladies at the registration table didn’t know I was late because I was in the parking lot spraying a cannabis tincture under my tongue. When my seatmate on the bus asked if I was nervous about my first race, I felt opposite—chill, a tingling sensation rising up my spine.

The stubborn part of me decided to train for the half marathon using weed to prove a point: I was and am not a lazy stoner. I can have a career and be active and enjoy using cannabis. Besides, living in a city like Seattle, where pot shop billboards line the streets, I’m tired of feeling like this is a part of myself I have to keep hidden.

The truth is, I love combining weed and running, elevating the runner’s high to a new level.

I also love how it forces me to settle into and feel my body: the length of my legs, my pumping arms, even the calluses on my feet. That’s not always an easy task to transition into after so many hours sitting at a desk and forgetting this brain of mine isn’t floating in the intellectual ether. It is connected to this body of mine.

The non-stubborn part of me decided to do it because the act of training intimidated me, and I wanted something that eased my fear. When I discovered weed helped me physically and mentally long-distance running, it dramatically changed the activity for me. It was no longer a mere form of exercise, but a way to tap into a new part of myself full of strength and perseverance.

Training for the half marathon meant giving myself enough time to get lost in the running. Running more miles was boring and made me sore in unexpected places, weed changed my perception of that. It was easy to forget the miles when staring at the scenery or absorbed in my thoughts and only occasionally being thrust back to my real world environment to cross the street. On a practical level, weed eased the pain and made stretching at the end much better.

It was counterintuitive to smoke and then run, so as I trained I tinkered with different ways to ingest cannabis: pills, sprays, and even teas.

The problem with many edibles is that they are inherently unhealthy. Eating a brownie before a run felt just as bad as inhaling a lungful of smoke. Unfortunately, I had yet to encounter much in the intersection between cannabis and exercise so the weed protein bars were few and far between. I came to really enjoy taking a capsule about an hour before I ran. It took care of my body by offering it a cushion to brace myself against cold weather, hard pavement, and catcalls when I ran through the city.

My recommendation for others interested in using cannabis to enhance their exercise routine is to:

  • Start out with a low dosage and increase as needed
  • Run in a familiar territory
  • Find the form of consumption that works for you: I recommend a capsule or tincture before and a CBD topical after for aches and pains
  • Never use cannabis before a new physical activity

The starting line of the half marathon was at the halfway point of the full marathon. As I stretched and shivered in the early morning cold, I watched muscular older men and svelte 16-year-olds who looked like they just left soccer practice run past. The half marathon was made up of a wide range of running levels: those who had run in dozens of races, those who were planning to walk and jog, and one elderly man who was power-walking the whole thing.

The race took place in the Yakima Canyon in Central Washington. The landscape’s beauty was distracting, particularly when the cannabis washed over me and I began to pay attention to the scenery: the winding river, the sun breaking through the clouds, and the old man walking his golden retriever who wished me “Good Luck!”

I often slipped into pockets with other runners and watched them. Along the way, I met an older woman who made a deal with her friend to run a half marathon every month for a year. She became my running spirit guide, the Sam Elliott to my Lebowski. We kept re-pacing each other, continuing conversations started a mile back as if no time at all had passed.

There were runners who wore shirts from their last race and yelled, “Yeah big guy, you got this. Slow and steady!” These runner bros harshed my mellow but inadvertently forced me to work harder so I could run away from them and reach a peaceful stretch of open road.

By mile three, all I could think was, “This is dumb. Why do people pay to run in the cold? Why is this my hobby?” But by mile nine, I felt empowered and understood why people run. When it ended, I held the medal in my hand—”Yakima River Canyon Half Marathon”—and smiled. I would drop it into the garbage that afternoon, but for the time being I didn’t care about kitschy memorabilia. I was busy stuffing myself with bananas and pretzels.

Running and weed can give you double whammy munchies.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Look into THCv, a cannabinoid found high in certain strains such as Doug’s Varin, to combat the munchies. THCv can work as an appetite suppressant.

About Kait Heacock

Kait Heacock builds community around the arts, women, and now cannabis. She is a writer and the Pacific Northwest editor for Joyland magazine. Kait worked as a book publicist in New York before returning to her beloved PNW, where she now works to build communities through Joyland, at the Seattle Lit Crawl, and at the monthly living room salons she hosts for queer women and non-binary artists.