For many runners, training for distance can have a grueling impact on the mind and body. This is why many long-distance runners have been turning to cannabis for its anti-inflammatory and pain reduction qualities.
While there are no statistics available on just how many athletes are now using cannabis as part of their training regimes, we spoke to four runners across Canada who candidly shared their own stories of using the plant for its therapeutic benefits, as well as offer advice to those who are interested in introducing cannabis to their training schedules.
Angelina Musicco, Toronto, ON
During her career as a Muay Thai fighter, Angelina Musicco suffered from many injuries during both her training and during competition. When the doctors kept trying to push painkillers on her, she knew that was not the route she wanted to take.
She began to explore cannabis to aid in her athletic recovery, decrease anxiety, and help with relaxation. After a concussion, Musicco knew her fighting career was over and took to running as part of her daily regime to stay active.
“I would use cannabis and go for a run, and that’s when I noticed that my runs improved.” She developed cannabis butter and oils, using strains that were high in CBD and low in THC when she first started out, but as she began to develop a tolerance, she moved onto sativa strains that gave her more energy, specifically Silver Haze adding that it was “I found it really great for energetic creativity.”
Musicco finds that she will most often smoke before leaving the house for a run, with her shoes on so that she has no excuses but to run sharing that once she’s out the door, even if her legs hurt, or if she got a stitch in her side, “all of that kind of stuff kind of just goes away once you find your flow.” With her experiences as an athlete, Musicco has now developed Blessed, an edibles company that is specifically for athletic recovery. The low-dose edibles, which won’t be available in the market until next year sometime, plans to offer runners the right doses of medicine for pre and post-runs.
Phil Depault, Montreal, QC
Phil Depault, was once a member of the Canadian mountain bike team, and biking was not just his passion, but his full-time job. When he became diagnosed with fibromyalgia, his life suddenly changed and he had to not only stop competing but he had to reevaluate just how he could continue to have his high-level athletic lifestyle.
As someone who was anti-cannabis up until this point, his doctor prescribed medical cannabis to treat his symptoms, which included chronic pain and sleep issues. “As soon as I started incorporating cannabis into my life I was learning how it worked and I couldn’t stop just making the parallel with when I was an athlete.”
Depault noticed that the plant was a great option for inflammation, stress, and sleep, and it encouraged him to start exploring his options as an athlete once again. He was drawn to running as he felt like, “it was easy to bring your running shoes in your luggage […] it basically became a lifestyle.” From there, he began to use the strain Green Crack, a sativa strain, during his runs which kept him “super uplifting, super focused and while running it just brings super mindful focus—I love this strain.”
For post-run recovery, Depault has taken to popping one or two CBD oil gel caps, which has helped particularly with helping his mind and the muscles relax. Because of his own experiences, Depault has now decided to launch a brand new company geared towards athletes that may be interested in CBD related recovery products. The line, which plans to launch in 2019, hopes to “provide people products that fit their lifestyle, fit what they are looking for, the kind of products that they want to use while they are training or while they are in recovery.”
Bethany Rae, Vancouver BC
Although Vancouver-resident Bethany Rae runs the fitness and cannabis friendly community Flower and Freedom, she considers herself an amateur runner. While Rae has always been drawn to outdoor adventure sports like running, they just caused pain in her body.
With different terrains in Vancouver, Rae experienced everything from sore knees, hips, and ankles post-runs and turned to cannabis as a way to reduce her pain. “Different types of cannabis consumption would help me in different ways for running,” explaining that if she wanted to manage joint pain, muscle pain, or mental blocks—there were different consumption for different purposes.
Rae typically uses a sublingual spray under her tongue that has a 25:1 CBD to THC ratio. With four sprays, Rae is able to get to a better state of mind and the ability to push through any joint pain she’s experiencing with her joints sufficiently lubricated. “I do have a very low tolerance to THC, so I don’t need much to feel it and anyway, during the day, I didn’t want too much euphoria. Without it, I would otherwise want to stop and walk 10 to 15 minutes in.”
For her post-run recovery, Rae also has used a THC and CBD topical that have helped with muscle tightness. “I actually find that it is really effective and I often have to stop running because my knees are so sore, but I don’t have that problem when I applied a topical.” Thanks to many of the Flower and Freedom events she has hosted, Rae believes she is opening up a dialogue on what it’s like to use cannabis in the wellness and fitness space. “It’s about conversation and being open and comfortable with cannabis consumption and learning from each other.” Rae shares “I consume cannabis as part of an active lifestyle and kind of encourage others to share theirs, as well.”
Alana Armstrong, Toronto, ON
Alana Armstrong of Toronto has been running since she was twelve years old. What started as a casual hobby with her mom, developed into a more serious habit as she grew older. Training for her first half marathon when she was sixteen, Armstrong admits she became ‘addicted’ to long distance running. But her foray into cannabis and running happened somewhat organically.
As an adult, she found herself experiencing some anxious self-talk before races and post-race pains. She went to speak with her general practitioner about what she was experiencing, who recommended she try cannabis. “She then sent me to a cannabis clinic to go through the process,” and it was not long afterward that Armstrong read a feature in Runner’s World that talked about athletes using cannabis and she felt like she didn’t have to feel ashamed about her use. “I had no idea that I could possibly use it functionally for that.”
Armstrong likes to use the dried flower in her vaporizer post-run, to ease her muscles. She has recently been playing around with the Canadian-bred indica strain called Nuken. “I find that it just really hits the spot, it’s not too heavy but it’s very beautiful, it’s got that sleepy feeling to it.”
After a really difficult run—particularly after Armstrong has rolled out her muscles—she likes to vape the indica-dominant Pink Kush strain stating, “I mean that’s just a no-brainer,” noting that she really loves the pepperiness of it. Smoking cannabis as part of her running regime has opened up a whole new world for Armstrong and she suggests that for someone who is interested and unsure, to speak to their doctor and get advice on how to proceed. “I think that’s a great place to start because they’ll help you figure out if it’s a good fit and what sort of formulations are a good fit.”