Hopefully you’re reading this post because you like running. That’s great, because I like running too, and that’s what this is all about.
But recently, I started thinking about my relationship with running. It’s probably fair to say that, like most people, it’s actually more of a love hate affair. I often struggle with the part preceding the run (ie getting out of the door) but love the feeling afterwards. Thankfully I tend to remember this endorphin high the most, which is the reason I haven’t given up. Yet.
The thing is though, once out on a run, I tend to go through the same process (which might sound familiar). It takes me a while to get into things. The first 20 minutes is a bit tough as the body adjusts from being sedentary to active. But after finally getting comfortable, I often turn my focus to the end of the run. Counting down the miles and minutes. Distracting my mind by listening to music. Tricking it into thinking I’m not going far by breaking up the run. Just one more. Etc
You get the gist. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve always relied on (and had faith in) these tools to get me through long runs. But with more marathons and a big, scary ultra looming on the horizon, I can’t help but think that I might need, well, a bit more assistance. After all, listening to music for ten-plus hours could get boring, (or maddening) quickly. Plus, trying to break 50 miles down into 5 x 10 mile chunks doesn’t really distract from the fact that it’s still an EFFING LONG WAY.
So I picked up a copy of the book ‘Running with the mind of meditation’ by Sakyong Mipham, a Tibetan lama and spiritual leader. I’ve always been curious about meditation and regular readers may notice I’m also interested in the mental side of running more than the physical side (which possibly explains why I struggle to do strength and conditioning work).
I’m about half way through the book, but so far one of the things that I’ve found particularly interesting is the concept of ‘running in the moment’. It encourages you to be present in your run, rather than thinking about the past or the future (ie how far you’ve got left to run) and to focus on your breathing. By being more aware of yourself while running, it’s easier to keep track of your natural running rhythm and strangely enough I’ve found that paying attention to this (rather than running to the beat of music) has made my recent runs more enjoyable and actually quite relaxing. I’ve even arrived at work after the morning’s run commute and found myself in a strange state of peaceful transcendence for the rest of the day. Plus, time seems to go much more quickly when you’re not worrying about how long there is left to go.
In a sense, this approach uses the concept of ‘starting from where you are’ – focussing on the present moment rather than being consumed by something that hasn’t happened yet (ie finishing the run). It’s funny, because we spend our lives worrying about what’s around the corner and wishing we were two steps ahead of ourselves, but forget to enjoy and appreciate the activity we’re engaged in until the moment has slipped away.
(PS if all the spiritual bullshit hasn’t scared you off and you’re still reading, I can highly recommend the book and will report back fully when I’ve finished!)