Runner’s high: the euphoric sensation that endurance athletes feel when they exercise for an extended period of time. For those who have never felt it, it sounds like the Fountain of Youth, Shangri-La, and El Dorado all rolled into one sweet moment of mental ecstasy. For those who have felt it, it’s the cherry on top of the sundae. Runners feel this high because of the chemicals their bodies release during prolonged exercise. Many people will never feel it because they don’t, or can’t, or won’t push themselves far enough. Some people, to whom nature has dealt a tough hand, are finding ways to push themselves to experience their own runner’s high.
Enter Chetan Mallik, a man with acromegaly.
Acromegaly is a disorder that was caused by Chetan’s pituitary gland producing too much human growth hormone. He recalls a day visiting his father in the hospital when the doctor could not discern who the patient was based on physical appearance.
Acromegaly causes the bones to grow even after a person has reached adulthood. A trained eye can detect the tell-tale physical features: protruding jaw, enlarged hands and feet. People with acromegaly usually have swollen and sore joints as well. The symptoms are often so subtle that people do not even notice the physical changes until they are pointed out or are substantially advanced.
Chetan underwent a surgical procedure and a month of radiation therapy to treat his ailment. He was fortunate to have a support system in place. His family and friends rallied behind him. He worked hard to gain their confidence rather than the oh-so-ubiquitous sympathy.
Chetan chose not to tell most of his co-workers at the multinational company where he works. The looks and the coddling can be a lot for someone to endure. Chetan wanted to be held accountable to the same standard as the rest of his co-workers.
If facing down acromegaly wasn’t enough, Chetan decided to up his exercise program. He took up running. He has run numerous 10Ks and half marathons now. His wife also runs, though Chetan admits she is a bit faster. When they can’t find a babysitter for their daughter, Chetan carries her on his shoulders or pushes her in a stroller.
He does not finish on the podium when he runs. Sometimes, he does not even finish the race at all. If he needs to stop, he will. But his determination should inspire those of us who let laziness keep us from achieving our own runner’s high.