#THISISMYADVENTURE - The Runners High, Anastasia Murphy

So what is the runners high? For the latest instalment of our #THISISMYADVENTURE series, we caught up with Anastasia Murphy to talk all things running and its many benefits.

Jumping in at the deep end..

Growing up on the coast in Dorset, Anastasia was active and often outdoors, but running wasn’t her thing, nor sport in general. So what changed?

Having now been running consistently for around three years, Anastasia started shortly after graduating from Uni. She landed a desk job and didn’t want to get caught up in a cycle of working 9-5 Monday to Friday, without doing any physical exercise.

Looking back at her very first mile she recounts, ‘I had no fitness when I did that first run after work – I still have my first mile recorded. It took me 11:36 minutes and I was SO happy’.

By the following March she’d thrown herself in at the deep end and ran a half marathon as her first race! ‘I think sometimes you need to just take a big jump and aim for something way out of your limits if you want to test yourself. Before I started running, a half marathon was a huge goal for me’.

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Before the world wakes up..

A typical week of training involves four runs - 1 recovery run, 1 mid-length weekday run, 1 speed session and 1 long-run, first thing on a Saturday morning. AM runs being the go-to, ‘I try to do my runs early in the morning before the world wakes up. There is no better feeling than running to the sunrise and feeling the cool morning air’.

Anastasia supplements these with two gym session - currently one core and one boxing. ‘I’ve noticed a difference to my speed since I started boxing - the session incorporates full body strength training and some sprints’.

The runners high..

‘It was incredible. One of the best days of my life. I was running alone with 40,000 other people yet I have never felt so united with every other runner. Runners would run by others who were clearly struggling and give them words of encouragement until they started running again. The highlight for me was around mile 16. My watch broke from running through the run-through showers (it was the hottest London marathon on record) and so from mile 12 I had no idea of my pace. I was so hot, tired and fed-up by mile 16. Then a stranger ran towards me and offered me a whole bright pink donut. I suddenly though ‘I’m running the London Marathon whilst eating a pink donut – this is pretty awesome!’.

It’s no surprise that running such an iconic event as the London marathon is a highlight for Anastasia, but what is the runners high? Many of us have heard of the runners high, that rush of endorphins that you get whilst running, or any exercise for that matter, but for Anastasia and many runners it’s so much more than just a boost of endorphins;  

‘I really do feel a ‘hit’ – I feel calm, fearless and content when I press ‘stop’ on my Garmin. I also genuinely think about nothing when I run. I have struggled to find this feeling from any other type of activity or sport. Running before the world wakes up gives me a good high – it makes me feel one step ahead and I can really take the positive attitude into the rest of my day. Also setting a goal for the run helps – if I want to run 8 miles, I will push myself to get there, and when I do, I feel not only physically fit but mentally strong.

This has had a direct carry-over into her work life too, 'I think running has made me so much more efficient, confident and organised at work, particularly marathon training requires those exact skills – organisation, discipline and confidence’.

 Better sleep, healthier heart rate..

The benefits don’t stop there though, unsurprisingly Anastasia’s entry into running has had other physical and mental benefits too;

I cannot stress enough how much running has helped my mental state. I am in good health, but that’s not to say I don’t suffer from general life anxiety, self-doubt and so on. Before running, I saw my body as something that should just ‘look good’. But, pushing myself beyond what I thought was my limit (running a marathon) totally changed the way I see my body. I might not be perfect but I am strong and fit enough to run for 26.2 miles and to get myself out of bed at 5.30am to run for an hour. My resting heart rate has dropped, my body fat has dropped, I have better skin, I sleep like a baby – all the important stuff’.

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Inspired? What are you waiting for?..

Anastasia’s advice for anyone wanting to start is simple;

Don’t set any expectations, only that it’s going to be fun. Find a quiet area or a quiet time of day and run, don’t look at your time or distance. Stop and walk for a bit when you need to and then go again. Set yourself really small goals, like being able to run to the end of a road, then the next time, to the next signpost. Make sure you’re running slowly, at an easy pace. A lot of people get caught up with trying to run fast. Sign up for a event, or plan a park run on a specific date and just keep running. Someone once asked Paula Radcliffe on her advice to start running and she said ‘just put one foot in front of the other and don’t stop’ and I think it really can be that simple if you are patient with yourself’.

‘Instagram helps to! The running community on there are amazing and give me so much support and motivation. It really is a myth that you’re only a runner if you’re super quick – I have never met anyone with that attitude!’

Fancy a Marathon?.. 

‘My advice for someone who wants to do their first marathon would be to sign up for a charity place. I was nervous about doing this (I had to raise £2,000 for Alzheimer’s Society for London) but I am SO glad I did. A marathon is a long way and people will appreciate the efforts you’re going to. The charity will also provide you will training support, a training day, perhaps an after party and even a cheer squad during the marathon itself. It gives you a real sense of purpose and motivation when training gets tough’. 

So what’s next for Anastasia?..

This year there’s a handful of 10km’s, two half marathons and the Yorkshire 3 peaks! The next marathon is the Manchester marathon in April where she’s hoping to get as close to four hours as possible, her current PB being 4h22. ‘Breaking 4 hours is my dream. A year ago this was unthinkable, but now I know I can get there one day’.

You can follow Anastasia’s journey on her Instagram @murphyruns

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Laurie Crayston