Psychedelics, as a rule, are associated with mental rather than physical travel. After a shroom or LSD trip you’re likely to find yourself in an entirely different ‘place’ — although you have not actually moved physically at all. And, why would you want to? Your internal exploration, and the ability to see trippy visuals even when just staring at a blank wall kinda reduces the need to go a’roamin’.

Can Psychedelics Aid Athletic Prowess?

There are some tales of psychedelics aiding sports prowess, such as the iconic yarn of superstar baseball pitcher Doc Ellis. He threw a no-hitter in 1970, (thats a good thing in baseball apparently!) and partially attributes his ball skills to the fact he was tripping balls during the game. More recently, we, and other psychedelic sleuths have investigated the claims that microdosing psychedelics can aid with athletic prowess. Apparently increasing alertness, and helping the athlete achieve a ‘flow state’ — a condition conducive to that fabled sports magic happening. It’s a new and exciting field of exploration. 

Photo by Nicolas Hoizey on Unsplash

But, there’s another psychedelic-sports hybrid that is lighting up the forums, and message boards. And, while we don’t necessarily recommend or advise anyone to try it, it’s a pretty interesting concept. Pretty wild too. We’re talking about the world of marathon running on psychedelics. 

Yep, it sounds crazy, but it’s a thing. 

Anecdotes of the Endurance Psychonauts

Most famously, this topic been explored in Lewis Simon Drake’s book: Runner’s High or: Can LSD Make You Gay? How I Ran an Ultramarathon Tripping on a Psychedelic Drug: The Easy Guide to Doing What You Should Not. Although both a bit of a mouthful, as well as tongue-in-cheek, this book does explore Drake’s real experience running a 50 mile ‘ultra marathon’ while tripping on LSD. From his initial misgivings about the whole project, to his orgasmic highs while running, to his frequent falling-in-love with other runners, he paints a picture of an unforgettable, and very intense experience. 

““It was… it was something.” It had been a long day, and much had happened. I had cried because of the 2004 tsunami, I had fallen in love… with both a woman and a man. I had run 50 miles in 10 hours and 21 minutes, possibly becoming the first person ever to run an ultramarathon tripping on LSD.”

The book in question

Drake tells Mel Magazine, reflecting on the bizarre experience. But, regardless, he managed it. And, herein lies the interesting thing about endurance activities while tripping — the psychedelic itself is unlikely to make you physically unable to complete the task. If you can run a marathon sober it’s highly likely you can also complete one while high. What you do need to take into account is how distracting psychedelics can be in terms of emotions and visuals. That tree might end up seeming more interesting than the finishing line… However, it can be done!

A Transformative Experience

There are various accounts — articles, blogs, Reddit threads — where people discuss their experiences with endurance sports and psychedelics. On Medium, writer Ben Richards tells the tale of his 24 mile ‘fell run’ (an intense hilly run in the Welsh countryside) that he completed under the influence of LSD. While not advocating for others to copy necessarily he paints a picture of a transformative experience;

“I guess I was about 2 hours into the run now… And it was at this point that I began to feel an utter sense of euphoria. I knew that the acid wasn’t going to take me down. I was also feeling surprisingly able to run. My lungs were fine. More than fine. And my body felt fantastic. I felt lighter, bouncier, more full of energy. I opened up a bit and started running faster. Just as fast as my instincts felt were sensible.”

Photo by Avi Theret on Unsplash

Of course, nearing the end of the run, the physical toll begins, faced with the realities of the activity. This would be the case for almost any runner tackling a steep 24 miles. And, Richards does admit he didn’t train. However, the spiritual effects were vast — two weeks away from moving to New York, he chose his potentially foolhardy task as a way to metabolize the big changes about to happen in his life. At the end of the article he explains he has continued to experiment with running, both with psychedelics, and sober, in search of the ‘runner’s high. 

Burning Man’s Ultramarathon

Other stories tell a similar tale of the quest for self-transformation. Many people take psychedelics to both confront, and explore, themselves. Many people use endurance exercise for the very same reason. It doesn’t seem so unreasonable to think they could be an interesting pairing — with the right conditions of course. 

One society (I think you can call them that?) that was vibing with the idea long before it became a blog topic are, of course, the ‘Burners’ from Burning Man festival. To say Burning Man is radical is an understatement, and its Ultramarathon, which takes place around the temporary Black Rock City, starts at 5am to avoid the Nevada desert heat. It’s also safe to say that as long as this has been occurring, there’s probably been at least a few people running it on psychedelics — I mean, it’s Burning Man…

Sunrise in Black Rock City (Photo by Obie Fernandez on Unsplash)

A Way To Heal

In a recent article on Psymposia ‘burner’, and runner, Sarah Rose Siskind shared her story of running the 50K (that’s 31 miles!) Burning Man Ultramarathon on LSD. Having had a traumatic drug-related experience at 2018’s edition of the festival, Sarah had returned to heal in her own psychedelic way. The drugs she had accidently taken in 2018 were a mixture of fentanyl and PCP which had left her paralysed for 9 hours — recovering after being cared for by the volunteers from the Zendo Project. The return to Black Rock City, the planned psychedelic trip, and the run itself were in the aim of putting this experience behind her.

Burners approach (Photo by Bry Ulrick on Unsplash)

Having completed the run, Sarah acknowledges that it was an extreme act, but for her the right one.

 “There is definitely an argument to be made about how gratuitous it is. But to some extent, that was intentional…There are so many myths to dispel about psychedelics. One specifically being that they decrease your motivation to do things. If six people thought it was gratuitous but one person had their eyes opened a little, that proportion would be worth it to me.”

So far, so intriguing — but primarily anecdotal. What does science say, if anything, on the subject? 

Is There Any Science Behind It?

Well, so far there have not been any studies specifically on this subject. However, there are various theories relating to parallel research. 

Journalist Alex Hutchinson theorizes that endurance athletes, such as runners or cyclists, are actually often stymied by their brain’s perception of fatigue rather than actual fatigue.

In an interview with Psychedelic Review Hutchinson explains;

“There’s no doubt that perception of effort is mediated by the brain, even though many of the inputs — temperature, heart rate, oxygen levels, and so on — are coming from elsewhere in the body… And in endurance sports, if you can change perception of effort, you can change your performance. So the idea that psychedelics might boost performance isn’t totally outlandish.”

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

This doesn’t mean that you suddenly achieve a new ability — more that you can push the ability you have further. It’s all about chemistry. Your brain chemistry. Serotonin is linked to reduced fatigue, so it follows that the serotonin-mimicking effects of psychedelics could have an effect here. 

Our Old Friend The DMN

The Default Mode Network (DMN) is key to our understanding of how psychedelics, like shrooms, affect the brain. Psychedelics have a quieting effect on the DMN, which regulates our sense of self and social understanding. Mental health conditions such as depression and PTSD have been found to be treatable with psychedelics. This is due to this temporary reduction of the DMN’s power which can become overactive, and cause the negative thought and behavioral patterns associated with these conditions. 

Photo by Natasha Connell on Unsplash

Similarly, this theory could be beneficial to the endurance athlete, reducing the possibility of self-doubt at the enormity of the task at hand. Additionally, a reduction in thinking about the ‘self’ could help the athlete focus on the experience of the race, namely being ‘in the moment.’

Lastly, if everything goes well with your mood, your dosage and your vibe there are many activities that are illuminated by adding psychedelics! (Let’s be sensible though… huh?) Of course running could be one of them — especially outside in nature! 

Psychedelics Olympics and Sensible Compromises

So while we’re not advising you to run any ultramarathons, it is an interesting thought that surely will be further researched in the near future! Imagine — the marathon at the Olympics 2036 being run by smiling flower children, just vibing on the feeling of running.

OK, we may not see that for a while… but in the meantime… why not take a little dose of shrooms and go for a walk in the park? Mmm we love a compromise!