What Running means to me

Ο Λ Υ Μ Π Ο Σ
03/07/2020

What Running means to me

SPARTATHLON 2017 (Athens to Sparta 246 Km) — photo credit: Sparta Photography Club

 

running is a critical component to my AdvEndure Life

There’s something deeply meditative about running. Anyone who has experienced the feeling of being “in the zone” while on a run will attest to the profound stillness and clarity of mind that can be achieved through the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and repeating, ad infinitum. As with any form of meditation, though, that desired state can prove elusive, and the process of getting there is not automatic. It’s not enough to just run. We need to practise mindful running.

 

SPARTALTHLON 2017 — photo credit: Sparta Photography Club

But what does mindful running actually mean, and what does it take to achieve it?

STEP ONE — Breathe

“Before we even start moving, take a few moments to just stand in stillness and feel the breath in the body. Feel the inhalations as they enter the body. Feel the exhalations and they leave the body. At this point we’re not trying to change anything about the way the body is breathing. All we’re doing is paying close attention to what’s already going on.

“And then, with this awareness, slowly put one foot in front of the other.

 

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“As the body starts to move it can become more difficult to keep track of the breathing. The best way to go about it is to be patient. It’s natural for the mind to start wandering as we begin moving, and that’s totally OK. It’ll take practice to cultivate this kind of awareness.”

STEP TWO — Feel

“As we make our way through the warm-up phase, start paying more attention to the rest of our body as it moves through the environment. Ask ourselves: how do our feet feel as they strike down on the ground? What do our hands and arms feel like as they move in space? What do our eyes and the muscles around our eyes feel like? Can we soften up any of the tension in ourface?

“As we do this, we can bring our awareness of breathing along with us. That’s totally fine. We’re just broadening the awareness, opening it up to the entire body.”

STEP THREE — Listen

“As we get more into the groove after 10, 15 or 20 minutes of running, allow ourselves to notice the sounds around us.

“As in the previous step when focusing on how our body feels, here we can also home in on certain individual sounds. The sound of our feet striking down on the ground is a great place to start, or the sound of our breathing. But ultimately, I find it most useful to open ourselves up to the symphony of sounds all around us — the birds, the traffic, the wind in the trees. Really immerse ourselves in this broad soundscape.”

STEP FOUR — Love

“Mindfulness is essentially training for the mind. But what I’ve found can be missing is that heart. Something I’m experimenting with is bringing more warmth and compassion in my practice.

“Running with a friend or training partner can be an incredibly effective way of building strength. It fuels our competitive desires and helps us to achieve our own physical goals. But rather than getting lost in this egocentric perspective, try using this shared experience as a way of cultivating a loving kindness towards one another. Take time to appreciate how the presence of another person keeps you going. Be aware of how that person makes you feel, and really make this a central part of your mindfulness exercise.”

STEP FIVE — Rest

“The best way to end any form of physical practice, whether running or surfing or yoga, is to live down on the ground. Feel the body as it rests on the ground, feel the points of contact, and simply surrender. Let ourselves be drawn into the Earth, almost as if we’re sinking into it. Feel our hearts racing, feel the sweat running down our foreheads, feel the impact this intense training has had on our bodies and our minds.

“In Buddhism, we talk about the balance between ‘doing’ and ‘being’. At this point, all we are interested in is: how can I give up all aspects of doing? How can I simply be? So, many of these teachings can be brought back to three words: Let it be.”

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Words by Chris Elvidge

Works by Christos D. Katsanos

Advendure Life
Advendure Life
Sharing moments, stories, philosophy and the lessons learned the last 30 years within the "Advendure Zone" of Christos D. Katsanos @myultralife