By Luke Sumpter

Many governments around the world are adopting more liberal policies when it comes to cannabis. Widespread legalization across the United States, Canada, and segments of Europe has germinated a fresh social acceptance of cannabis. However, users of the herb haven’t completely shaken off the old stereotype of the lazy stoner. Although, cannabis lovers with an affinity for running are helping to change this. Many in society view runners as type-A personalities with a penchant for voluntary adversity. But does blazing the herb help them in their fitness endeavours, or does it compromise their goals? Find out everything you need to know about weed and running below.

Individuals from many different countries use weed before going for a run or as part of their broader lifestyle. However, runners in certain regions have much easier access to the herb. Those in the United States and Canada, for example, have the luxury of entering dispensaries and getting their hands on some of the highest-quality products available anywhere.

Focusing on the United States for a moment, almost 50 million[1] people in the country participate in running. When it comes to weed, just under 50 million people used it at least once[2] in 2019. You better believe there’s some crossover between these two groups! Runners from different bipedal disciplines are starting to embrace cannabis, from elite-level sprinters to those that belong to the more edgy ultramarathon subculture, where it fits in more effortlessly. But does puffing on or eating the herb help these runners reach their full potential? Or does it compromise their pulmonary function?


"Runner's High" Or When Cannabis and Cardio Have Similar Effects

Interestingly, many runners are drawn to weed because it offers them a similar reward as going for a run. Seriously! Whether using the herb enhances their physical performance or helps them to recover during the aftermath, it certainly results in a similar neurochemical state.

If you’ve ever taken up running, even for a short period of time, you probably encountered what’s known as the “runner’s high” at some point in your training. Despite enduring varying degrees of physical discomfort on a run, many runners eventually break through and experience a pleasant state of bliss and euphoria. It was once thought that endorphins, opioid-like molecules made in the body, are solely responsible for these effects. Today, however, researchers understand that endocannabinoids[3] play a large part in the experience.

Endocannabinoids achieve this by binding to receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system—a large network in the body that regulates everything from mood to pain. One endocannabinoid in particular, called anandamide (which translates to “bliss molecule”), imparts the pleasant effects of the runner’s high. Are you ready for the cool part? It turns out that THC, the primary active constituent in cannabis, shares a similar structure with anandamide. Every time you smoke, you experience a herbal high not so dissimilar to a runner’s high. Both are certainly different experiences, but they share a similar mechanism. It’s no wonder why many runners enjoy cannabis, and why some stoners end up getting hooked on running.

Exploring the Science Behind Cannabis and Running

Untold amounts of money are spent studying ways to enhance athletic performance every year. Reputations, monetary prizes, and even the prestige of entire nations depend on it! However, research into the use of cannabis in athletics remains rather sparse. Currently, it remains unclear[4] if cannabis serves as an ergogenic aid. Early research[5] suggests that THC might negatively impact heart homeostasis, while CBD has the potential to improve sleep quality and physical discomfort.

Do Pro Runners Partake in the Herb?

When considering the benefits of smoking weed and athletics, it helps to look at the best of the best. Consider the swimmer and holder of 28 medals, Michael Phelps. Would this man have continued to blaze if it started to detract from his incredible swimming success? Or what about Sha’Carri Richardson? Although banned from the Tokyo Olympics because of a positive THC test, she’s still an elite-level athlete who used the herb. Many marathon runners are also coming out of the woodwork and proclaiming how weed has a place[6] in their training regimen.


The Potential Benefits of Running on Weed

Science has barely scratched the surface when it comes to using cannabis for athletic performance. However, many casual weekend warriors and amateur athletes, and even professional runners, use the herb to their apparent advantage. So, let’s cover some of the proposed benefits, before assessing some of the potential downsides.

  • Increased Focus

Combining marijuana and running may help to increase focus. This has an advantage during both races and bouts of training. During an event, improved focus can help a person avoid potential distractions. During training, it helps some individuals adhere to their regimen.

  • Flow State

Many long-distance runners experience a flow state while pounding the road or meandering across trails. This manifests as a deeply immersive experience in which a person remains incredibly focused on the task at hand. Everything outside of the present moment melts away, and the mind becomes locked in on each and every movement and breath. Some runners claim that using cannabis before a run helps them to enter this state more easily.

  • Stress

Stress can impact athletic performance[7] by restricting blood flow to muscles and increasing fatigue. Stress very often sets in before a long training run or a race, but some runners manage to offset it by using strains that help to calm their nerves.

The Downsides of Running on Weed

Running while high does show some promise when it comes to training or performance. However, puffing on blunts before a race also has some downsides that we need to cover.

  • Compromised Motor Control

Research shows that high doses of cannabis can compromise motor control[8]. Various forms of running depend on a coordinated nervous system. The act of sprinting relies on well-timed explosive contraction, and navigating a technical downhill trail covered with exposed roots and rocks demands serious coordination.

  • Cotton Mouth and Hunger

Using cannabis doesn’t necessarily cause dehydration, but it can dry out the mouth. This can lead to discomfort during a run, and can even cause a runner to take in more fluids than they actually need. A strong bout of the munchies during a long trail race will also distract a runner and potentially mess up their nutrition strategy.

  • Lung Health

There are several ways to consume cannabis, including orally and sublingually. However, smoking remains one of the most popular. Research shows that, despite the conventional wisdom and bias of cannabis-loving circles, smoking the herb is associated with airway inflammation[9], airway resistance, and lung hyperinflation. The bottom line: you certainly don’t want to hit a bong or blunt immediately before a race or intense training run.

Blazing and Running: How to Go About Things

If you decide that using cannabis during training or event competition is right for you, then consider the important points below.



Before a race or training run, take the following into account when using cannabis:

  1. Start low and slow: Go easy! Start off with just a small dose of oil or a couple of hits from your vape before heading out the door. It’s better to feel less high than you want to, then to get too baked and bail on your training. Slowly build up over time for the best results.
  2. Prepare well: It’s no secret that weed can make people forgetful. Get every single thing you need ready before you hit a vape or take a dose. Pack your bag, make sure you have water and nutrition, and make sure your phone and headphones are charged and securely in your pockets.
  3. Select your strain carefully: Avoid outrageously strong strains as you start to pair cannabis and running. Start out with a moderately potent strain and work up from there. Potency aside, play around with genetics that offer different levels of novel cannabinoids and terpenes to see which effects you like the most.


The pairing of weed and running doesn’t have to end when you come to a walking speed and stop your running watch. Find out how you can continue to use marijuana post-run:

  1. Blaze to relax: You’ll feel both mentally amped up and physically tired after a long run. Cannabis is famous for helping people to kick back and relax. So, why not use it exactly for this purpose to soothe your mind and muscles?
  2. Boost your appetite: Cannabis is very effective for increasing appetite. More than anything, you’ll need a good amount of protein after your run. However, this macronutrient is very satiating and sometimes hard to scoff down. Weed can help you here!
  3. Rehydrate and take a shower: We don’t suggest blazing up immediately. Get yourself showered and rehydrated first. That way, you can enjoy some sweat-free and guilt-free downtime afterwards.

Is Using Weed Before a Run Safe?

Not for everybody. Research shows that THC can increase heart rate and blood pressure in some people. If you have any health conditions or are taking any medication, it’s important to discuss pairing cannabis and running, no matter how controversial, with your doctor beforehand.

Cannabis and Running: An Effective Duo?

Because the research remains so early, no concrete evidence states that cannabis enhances running performance. However, many elite athletes frequently put the herb to use. Adding to that, not every casual runner trains to break records. Instead, they use it as a release from the stress of daily life, and adding cannabis into the equation enhances the pleasure they get from the experience. So, will you start to use cannabis before, during, or after running?

External Resources:
  1. Running & Jogging - statistics & Facts | Statista
  2. Data and Statistics
  3. A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice - PMC
  4. Cannabis and Exercise Performance: Current Evidence
  5. Cannabis and Athletic Performance - PMC
  6. Runner’s high: the athletes who use marijuana to improve their training
  7. The Effects of Stress on Your Athletic Performance
  8. High-Potency Marijuana Impairs Executive Function | Neuropsychopharmacology
  9. What are marijuana's effects on lung health? | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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