Smoking may seem counterintuitive to building up the lung strength and endurance for running. But when it comes to ultramarathon racing, some seasoned vets are finding notable benefits in marijuana use.
According to a story in The Wall Street Journal, pot has become a veritable trend among ultramarathoners, most of whom use it as a way of managing the grueling nature of ultramarathons themselves.
As runners in the story note, the extreme length of an ultra -- which typically ranges from 30 to 200 miles and covers rigorous terrains -- presents challenges that aren't necessarily endurance-related, at least in terms of oxygen intake. Join and muscle pain, general body strain, potential dehydration and even boredom -- which can zap a runner's motivation in an instant -- can all conspire to take an ultramarathoner down.
“The person who is going to win an ultra is someone who can manage their pain, not puke and stay calm,” said veteran runner Jenn Shelton to the WSJ. “Pot does all three of those things.”
Because it's so effective, pot has spurred a debate about the ethics of using it in ultra racing. It may be legal in states like Colorado, which is a favorite locale of many extreme runners, but its affect on runners would place it in the category of a performance-enhancing drug.
Sides within the community are split. Some have no problem using it in races -- although the drug is considered banned by several governing bodies -- while others abstain altogether. Then there are the individuals who smoke marijuana during training, but not in competition.
Meanwhile, medical experts caution that while marijuana does have benefits -- particularly as it relates to blocking pain receptors -- it can increase the risk of injury or other health problems because those warning signals aren't getting through.
Many runners aren't willing to discuss whether they use marijuana or not as part of their ultramarathon training. But it's safe to say that with the benefits well-known, many have an interest.