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I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

September 13, 2015

Runner's High & Helper's High This Birthday Weekend

As  runners, we are truly blessed to have knowledge of this animal called "runner's high."

The "runners high" is a state of bliss achieved by athletes (not just runners) during and immediately following prolonged and intense exercise. Endorphins are commonly associated with runner's high.  The word "endorphine" comes from endogenous meaning "produced within the body" and morphine, a chemical substanxe derived from opium that elevates mood and reduces pain.  Endorphines in turn are neurotransmitters that are chemically similar to morphine.  There is a close connection between the mind and the body when a person is running.  In fact it has been said that the mind takes over for the body because it can longer function properly after certain time period. 

To hear Yiannis Kouros, who is a legend in the world of Ultrarunning, in an article he wrote in Ultrarunning Magazine in March 1990 is quite revealing:

"Some may ask why I am running such long distances. There are reasons. During the ultras I come to a point where my body is almost dead. My mind has to take leadership. When it is very hard there is a war going on between the body and the mind. If my body wins, I will have to give up; if my mind wins, I will continue. At that time I feel that I stay outside of my body. It is as if I see my body in front of me; my mind commands and my body follows. This is a very special feeling, which I like very much. . . It is a very beautiful feeling and the only time I experience my personality separate from my body, as two different things."

I am no Yiannis but on this weekend following my birthday Friday (Sep 11), I decided to engage in running. It was a nice break from the depressing state of almost a week hospital stay for my wife.     On Saturday morning , I was blessed to have ran for 7 kms with my running buddy Fards inside Camp Aguinaldo. It was a fun run of sorts for the both of us as we were able to run in a relaxed pace, giving us a lot of time to converse on many topics from scholarship initiatives to balik alindog programs.   Buoyed with the early morning perspirations, I targeted to go for the 42-km distance in the Subaru Marathon the following day (Sep 13).  7 + 42 = 49, exactly the number of years of my age.    
Running 7kms with Fards inside Camp Aguinaldo this Saturday.
But come early Sunday morning, I decided not to push ahead with the full marathon.  I felt I was not yet ready given that the longest run for me the past month has only been 14 kms.  Also, recurring injuries with my ITB and hip flexor continue to nag me. I feel like an old automobile in and out of the repair shop.  Prudence is the better part of valor so they say. 
Running solo for 2 hours in Camp A this Sunday
Instead, I went for a solo 2-hour run inside Camp Aguinaldo. Although I was alone, I was smiling because of the next activity I had in mind after my Sunday morning run.  The activity had something to do with another kind of high.

Pyschologists have identified a typical state of euphoria reported by those engaged in charitable activity. They call it "helper's high," and it's based on the theory that giving produces endorphins in the brain that provide a mild version of a morphine high. 

When we're motivated by a true spirit of generosity, we benefit as much as those on the receiving end.  Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello says it this way:  "Charity is really self-interest masquerading under the form of altruism.  I give myself the pleasure of pleasing others."  In the same vein, the Dalai Lama playfully speaks of working to benefit others as "selfish altruism." 

Research has offered scientific evidence that helping others brings happiness to oneself.  According to the measures the "Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey", overseen by researchers from Harvard University, those who gave contributions of time or money were "42 percent more likely to be happy" than those who didn't give.    In the 1990s, one famous study examined personal essays written by nuns in the 1930s.  Researchers found that nuns who expressed the most positive emotions were living about 10 years longer than those who expressed the fewest such emotions. 

I am no nun but this weekend I decided to do something charitable.  I decided to answer positively to the appeal  of our parish priest at the Ascension of Our Lord Parish (AOLP).  In his sermons the past few weeks, Fr. Joseph Landerio called on generous parishioners to sponsor the food at the feeding program our parish church has started in June 2015 and will run up to Dec 2015.  

The feeding program benefits 80 underweight children aged 6 years old to 11 years old.  These underweight children come from all over the parish and every Sunday morning from 9am to 11am they all come to the Multi-purpose building of the parish for a Sunday school session.  After the teachings, there is the feeding.  Fr. Landerio suggested in his sermons that one way to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries is to sponsor one feeding session on a Sunday.  

Come the morning this Sunday (Sep 13), after my run in Camp Aguinaldo, I brought my son and my wife to our parish multi-purpose building so that they can participate and help out the parish volunteers conduct the feeding.  We paid for the food and drinks. It was an enlightening and liberating   experience for all of us.  Gone from our minds at that moment in time were the problems we have. 
Teaching session before the feeding.
Prayer before meals.

Parish volunteers busy at work.
My son  helping out in distributing the food.

Eager to have their food.

Eating together.

No spoon. No problem.

Joining the young ones.

Aside the 6 to 10 year old kids for the feeding program, the parish also has a Sunday school for 11 to 14 years olds.  

My son enjoying the macaroni sopas.

Enjoying the activity as a family.

 Two of our parish volunteers.

More parish volunteers.

It felt good to be of help. Correction.  It felt great. 

Thank you for the twin blessings of runner's high and helper's high on my birthday. Vita est valde.  

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