How to reach a runner’s high

Molly Grace

If you’re like me, there’s nothing like taking advantage of a beautiful day in the late summer/early fall by going on a mid-afternoon run. While the heat and humidity of summer and the frigidity of winter often make my daily jog more of a mind-over-matter exercise than an enjoyable experience, the mild climate and warm breeze provide the perfect conditions for a stimulating work-out.

Running is my release: not only does it give me a sense of solitude amidst the busy-ness of my life, but it also provides a clarifying perspective when I have to find solutions to any potential problems confronting me. There’s also nothing like a runner’s high experienced as a result from the endorphins released after pushing myself so hard. Whatever the reason – staying in shape, clearing the mind of excess distractions, burning off the weekend’s extra consumption of calories-most people think of running (or walking, skating or biking) as an individual activity that benefits your minds or bodies in some way.

Even if used as a social activity – which I know all too well after running for four years on my high school cross country team – these activities are at their core individually-minded. But do they simply have to be? Is there a way to elevate your own mind- and body-transforming experience into a socially productive one?

As you might have guessed, of course there is. It seems that a myriad of societies have discovered the same sentiment with which I opened this editorial and have capitalized on the season’s beautiful weather – and the exercise rush stimulated by that weather – to hold charity races.

What a great concept: helping to raise money for those in need while promoting your good health at the same time.

Not that this is an altogether new discovery. Villanova’s Special Olympics Committee has been holding its annual Strides for SPO to benefit the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania Fall Festival for years.

It just seems that this year in particular, everywhere I look I see another ad for another race in support of yet another worthy cause: American Lung Association, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, Catholic Charities and local police and fire departments, just to name a few.One race in particular really made me think of how much I take my good health and my ability to run for granted.

On Sept. 3 in Baltimore, Md., Sinai Hospital and its associate sponsors hosted the Inaugural Save-A-Limb Bike Tour, Trail Run and Walk to raise money for the Save-A-Limb Fund and the International Center for Limb Lengthening at Sinai Hospital. The ICLL is an advanced orthopedic center that was founded in 2001 by Drs. Dror Paley, John E. Herzenberg and Michael Mont to help individuals, especially children, who suffer from congenital or developmental bone deformities.

The center is a world-renowned haven to which desperate families flock in the hopes that these doctors will offer their children an alternative to the harrowing, but oftentimes inevitable, solution of amputation.

Although Paley’s innovative reconstructive limb-lengthening procedures are terribly painful-he basically breaks the deformed bones and stretches them so that new bone can grow in their place-he produces miracles on a regular basis. He can often restore limb function to such an extent that his patients are able to live normal lives.

I can’t even imagine how I would cope, let alone run for pure enjoyment, without the use of my legs. While the participants in the day-long fundraiser had the opportunity to exercise their limbs, they raised money to help give others the opportunity to do the same.

Hopefully, the awareness excited by the fundraiser will help spur interest in the cause of limb deformity so that increased efforts can allow others to enjoy the runner’s high that so many of us take for granted.