After Jeff Sperber crosses the finish line of a 50-mile ultramarathon, he has a specific post-race routine. Like many runners, first he stretches. Then he eats some protein. About an hour later, though, he deviates from the ordinary program by inhaling a few puffs of marijuana from a handheld vaporizer.
“When you’ve been running for that long, you’ve got swelling muscles and aching joints, and you’re tired,” says the 42-year-old Los Angeles resident, a runner since college who has been doing long races since 2007. “You can take an Advil, which will help the swelling and inflammation, but it’s also very taxing on your liver.”
Sperber is part of a growing number of runners who are coming out of the proverbial closet as marijuana smokers or ingesters of THC (marijuana’s active component) through other means, usually edibles, tinctures or topical ointments. Groups such as Run on Grass, in Denver, Colorado, and Team Hope through Cannabis, in Texas, hope to change attitudes about the typical pot smoker and otherwise inspire conversation about marijuana.
Sperber has had two hip surgeries and a hernia surgery, and he’s currently dealing with stage four arthritis in a toe. Though he has a prescription for pain medication to address his post-run issues, he prefers to not use it whenever possible. “I can’t do that stuff and function as a normal human being,” says Sperber, who also has a legal prescription for medical marijuana. “As a weed smoker, I can function.”