Cannabis. It's all over the news these days. It's hard to ignore, yet for years I was the person who tried to ignore it ... and quite frankly, I was scared of it.
As someone who grew up in a very religious community, I was raised to see it as a "gateway drug" that killed brain cells. So, I stayed away from it all the way through my teenage years, through my 20s, and somehow even into my early 30s. If I'm being totally honest, I was judgmental of anyone who used it. I was one of those people who would think, I know how to deal with my problems and don't have to smoke pot to escape them.
The Turning Point
One conversation ultimately changed my opinion on marijuana for good. A man and his wife, both in their 80s, approached me at an event in Sacramento and told me stories about how he had been diagnosed with cancer, and it didn't respond to multiple rounds of treatment. Once they felt like they had nowhere else to go, the couple sought out holistic medicine, and cannabis was part of the regimen.
They were traditional. They were skeptical. But at that point they were willing to try anything. Was this well-educated man in his 80s onto something? My mind became a door that was cracked open just slightly.
A year later, I met another friend from Washington state who had been treating his chronic back pain with cannabis. He wasn't a stereotypical "pothead"—he had actually attended medical school. After graduating, he ultimately went down a different career path because he disagreed with the prescription-heavy health care system in America.
A few severe accidents had left his back in shambles, and cannabis was helping his pain. "It's this for me right now or terrible prescription drugs," he would say as he took a soft pull on his battery-powered cannabis oil vapor pen.
I had questions. He educated me further. He taught me about the different strands and how there were now multiple ways to take cannabis. He taught me about how different cannabis oils had different THC levels (the stuff that makes you feel high) and that you didn't have to walk around feeling high all the time. Rather, you could customize your dosage based on your pain level.
Four Years Later
Four years after I had that initial conversation in Sacramento, I tried cannabis for the first time. I smoked it the traditional way—an experience that didn't work well for me as an endurance athlete. I coughed way too much and didn't like the aftertaste. Next time around, I tried gummy candy. Though the absence of the smoke was nice, they knocked me out to the point of feeling so insanely stoned, slow, and slothful that I couldn't get off my couch for nearly four hours. I didn't have time for that. I started thinking the whole thing just wasn't for me.
Then, I finally tried a cannabis oil vapor pen similar to the one my friend had used in Washington. The THC content was lower: 57 percent. The day I tried it, I had completed a long run and my knees were sore and inflamed. Just a small dose of the marijuana mitigated my inflammation, helped me relax, and allowed me to wake up the next day ready to train. In the past, I had relied on ibuprofen, but this seemed to do the job just as well—with fewer side effects.
Cannabis as an Endurance Athlete
Since that time, I've been running big, challenging alpine peaks multiple days a week in preparation for my first 50-mile trail-running race. Running nearly 4,000 feet down mountains really puts a beating on my knees, and the cannabis has been a miracle in lessening the pain and helping me to recover faster. I function at a high level all day, often waking up at 4:30 in the morning to run mountains, work, be a dad, and cater to all my other responsibilities.
Marijuana is becoming extremely mainstream now, and I'm probably just one example of hundreds of thousands who are starting to understand its benefits when used responsibly.