The top of the mountain is well above your head.

You can't see it from the bottom, but you've been there a time or two. You're going up there again, in fact, on a trail that's filled with rocks and branches, streams and trees, and seems to go straight up. You'll run it, all of it, and as in the new book "Runner's High" by Josiah Hesse, you'll go high.

For most of his life, Josiah Hesse looked at exercise as something like punishment. He hated the very idea of competition, and any kind of physical effort reminded him of high school "locker rooms" and "homophobic meatheads who threatened my safety."

"Runner's High: How a Movement of Cannabis-Fueled Athletes is Changing the Science of Sports" by Josiah Hesse
"Runner's High: How a Movement of Cannabis-Fueled Athletes is Changing the Science of Sports" by Josiah Hesse

These thoughts were drifting through his mind when, in 2015, he was waiting for the start of a marathon and noticed discarded edibles wrappers in a garbage can. He'd brought edibles along and had planned on "discreetly consuming" them; by the end of the race, he was joyful and "giddy" and had discovered something he believes is "underreported."

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He thought he was alone in his enjoyment of running high, but Hesse found a surprise: many athletes – particularly distance runners, he says – use CBD, THC, and marijuana to enhance performance. It's quietly common in amateur sports and, he avers, though most organizations ban or discourage it, marijuana use is also well-known in pro sports.

Science, he says, has proven in many ways that marijuana and its derivatives can actually help athletes. The human body contains cannabinoid receptors; it's well-known that marijuana works to eliminate pain and induce relaxation, and it can decrease anxiety. Hesse noticed that "ripping a bong" before he ran made running more like "play"; if couch-potatoes could tap into that feeling, then maybe, Hesse posited, they wouldn't be sedentary.

So why isn't marijuana legal and easily available, then?

Says Hesse, "Enter Big Tobacco, Alcohol, and Pharma."

Getting any useful information out of "Runner's High" is very clearly, pure and simple, going to depend on your stance on the use of marijuana.

If you're steadfastly negative, you can stop here and page ahead.

Lean toward the positive, and author Josiah Hesse still won't make things easy for you. Readers, for example, will quickly notice that several iterations of the word "play" show up in this book really often, which is generally distracting and doesn't, until toward the end of it, leave much room for serious discussion on what he's found. While there is a good amount of science-and-businesslike dialogue here, the antsy insistence on "play" overshadows it.

Others, particularly those who are specific in their usage, may find deep offense in labels like "stoner," "pothead runners" and "dirtbag." Casual use of user slang also changes the tone of this book, from investigative to impudent.

For athletes who want to make their daily run fun, or for "couch-monsters" who need impetus to get up and go, there's a lot of solid science to be had inside "Runner's High." If you aren't anywhere convinced, though, this book could be a mountain of controversy.

Book notes

"Runner's High: How a Movement of Cannabis-Fueled Athletes is Changing the Science of Sports" by Josiah Hesse is available at Barnes & Noble at Apache Mall and through online booksellers.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on the prairie in Wisconsin with one man, two dogs and 16,000 books. Look for her at bookwormsez.com or bookwormsez on Twitter.