This marathon runner used cannabis to get her runner's high on race day: 'It just felt like a party'

Kate Glavan talks about using THC to achieve her runner's high. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Getty Images)
Kate Glavan talks about using THC to achieve her runner's high. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Getty Images)

Kate Glavan doesn't have fond memories of running during her days as a college athlete playing volleyball at New York University. In fact, it often felt like "punishment" to run drills and train a certain way on a very specific schedule. But after leaving the team right before her junior year, the Minnesota native wanted to find a way to move her body for pleasure.

Running — now something to be enjoyed without the constraints of her college training —became the answer. To enhance the experience, Glavan has been consuming cannabis before her runs over the past year — including ahead of her very first marathon in New York City on Nov. 5.

"Running most of the time sucks for the first 10 minutes or so when you're not really warmed up," she tells Yahoo Life. "You don't really feel yourself connected to your body. So cannabis is something that gets me to that state of tranquility — being in the moment, being present, having the blinders on to everything else. I'm very focused and in the zone with it."

The 25-year-old says that a few experiences with the cannabis running club Rage and Release and the Josiah Hesse book Runner's High opened her eyes to the possibility of partaking before pounding the pavement. But it was a premarathon stress fracture that prompted her to incorporate THC into her routine.

Glavan recalls getting prescribed medication for pain management in January 2023 and finding that it wasn't working. She wanted to look into more holistic remedies and turned to weed. "I started taking edibles just to help with the pain in my knee and it really helped a lot. I was seeing a lot of improvement also in my general mood and anxiety," she says. The relief that she felt both physically and mentally from the high would later help her when she got medically cleared to start running again.

"My biggest worry was, like, I'm going to injure myself. Like, as soon as I start running, that fear of reinjury was so loud in my head," says Glavan. "So I started talking to my physical therapist, and I was, like, 'What if I consumed weed before I ran? What if that got rid of these anxious thoughts in my head? What if that made it easier for me to go out and run?'"

Mixing cannabis and running at first felt very experimental, as she "felt like Bambi on ice when I consumed weed and would run," she says. "I was, like, I still don't know what I'm doing. I don't know enough about weed. I don't even know the strains. I don't know the types. I don't know the dosage. And so it was a definite learning journey."

She realized that she had to take metabolism and body weight into account, as well as the timing of her runs and how she fueled herself before, during and after them. "If you consume an edible on an empty stomach, it's probably going to hit you faster than if you had a full breakfast," Glavan explains. "And if you had caffeine, runners may want to consider too that cannabis does increase your heart rate."

Glavan sought out the help of a running coach to plan just how running the New York City Marathon would go — and her cannabis intake was taken into account.

"It's always kind of that 2 to 5 mg just to get me a little bit lifted, a little bit up and to have that chatter leave my head once again. And I've pretty consistently done edibles," says Glavan. "On race day, I held a little container in my pocket and I chopped up 5 mg edibles into [two halves]. I would just take those, like, every 30, 45 minutes to an hour or so ... take one here, there."

It was an additional step toward fueling herself throughout the race, much like planning when to have energy gels and when to take water breaks, and one that allowed her to "float" through the 26.2 miles. "It just felt like a party," she says. Crossing the finish line in four hours and seven minutes also allowed her to show her followers that you can accomplish ambitious goals while high.

"I've received, of course, a lot of backlash from people being, like, 'How dare you be a health-and-wellness person and promote this drug and promote this thing that's so unhealthy.' And I'm like, 'Look, I'm just trying to get more people to move their body, I'm trying to get more people to believe in themselves again, to do an activity like running.' And if weed can be the thing that gets people off the couch and going on a run, I'd feel like I'd fulfill my role there," says Galvan. "I also think my responsibility as a white woman that talks about weed is to really elevate groups that give their proceeds to those affected by harsh cannabis laws and the war on drugs. ... I'm challenging the people that have stigmas about who uses cannabis and all of the characteristics of it being something that is dangerous and criminal."

On a more personal note, she's also challenging the ideas that she had of herself before she became a Hoka global athlete ambassador.

"Sometimes I don't feel like a runner," she says. "I don't feel like I qualify as a runner because I don't look a certain way, I don't have certain times, I don't have all these medals. And I think it's a really big disservice that a lot of people don't feel included in the running community. You don't have to run one way. So I'm showing people that you can show up however you want to and that is something to be celebrated and accepted."