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Mindful : June 2017
The Right Route One of the great joys of running is the time and space it gives you to just be with yourself. There’s nothing else to do, or really, to even think about. Of course, you can load running, like anything else, with all sor ts of goals and other busyness. But to truly experience mindfulness while running, the most impor tant thing is to let running itself be the goal without any other needs attached to it. There are two fun ways to practice this. Just...Run! Truly give yourself over to the experience of running just for running’s sake, with no other agenda. This will mean going whichever way your desire tells you to go, listening to your body to determine your speed and the distance you travel, and remaining alert and curious to all that’s going on within and outside of you. Ø TRY THIS See if you can take note of things as you run that perhaps you haven’t noticed before. How many different kinds of trees are there? What about birdsong? Is the side- walk more even in some spots and more cracked in others? Ø TIP Make sure you have plenty of water, an extra layer of clothing, and maybe a $10 bill tucked into your running shor ts, just in case. Oh, and you might want a map or cell phone if you think you might wander beyond your ability to find your way home. Plan Your Run Set up some basic param- eters—a preplanned route, a set amount of time—and within those, fully embrace the experience without the worry of having to make any other decisions. You won’t need to wonder if you should turn left or right at the end of the road, for example, because your route is already decided. Instead, tune inward, to your breath, the warmth spreading through your muscles, how the energy travels up through your legs, hips, and back with each step. Let your inner experi- ence of running come alive in Technicolor. Ø TRY THIS Notice your predominate foot- strike pattern. Do you lead with your right foot or your left? Follow this for a while with your awareness, then, do the opposite. Intentionally lead with the other foot, and see what happens. Ø TIP Just like in seated meditation, try keeping your focus on one thing at a time. Use the footstrike method mentioned above, or the sound and feel of your breathing. Let the rhythm still any other noise in your mind. more present, to listen to their breath, to be kind to themselves, and not beat themselves up. I tell them to forget about pace and just start running.” Learning to run mindfully, particularly for less-experienced runners, is probably better done individually than as part of a group. That’s because one key to success is finding a rhythm that harmonizes your breath—deep, controlled belly breathing, as in yoga or meditation—with the cadence of your feet, and in a group there’s always the temptation to keep pace with the leaders. Moreover, some group members may want to chatter as they go, potentially distract- ing others from tuning in to bodily sensations, taking stock of emotions, checking in on form, and otherwise cultivating the focus and sense of presence that this routine can produce. On the other hand, many find that group runs can instill a sense of community, camaraderie, and motivation to keep at it, even when no words are exchanged. In that way, these sessions can be very much like group meditation. Given such potential upside, some runners have hatched efforts to expand Mindful Mon- days to include group efforts. Among them is Diana Gorham, who’s general manager of Two Rivers Treads, a popular running store in the panhandle of West Virginia. Gorham ran her first marathon in the fall of 2006 and earned an impressive age-group 5th place. After that, she says, running became more about the rac- ing than the training, as she doggedly pushed herself to the limit in hopes of recording better times. In 2011 she graduated to “ultras” (i.e., races greater than the traditional 26.2-mile marathon), her longest a 100-mile trail race in August of 2014 that had her on the rain-soaked course for more than 27 hours. But something changed, she says, on the heels of that effort: She realized that there’s more to running than logging endless miles in pursuit of racing acclaim, and as a result her punishing training schedule gave way to a yoga practice, guided meditation, and exploration of her spiritual side. Her new routine includes about three short runs a week, all done with a greater appreciation of her environment and the rest of the running experience. Last February, Gorham launched her Mindful Mondays running (and walking) group in hopes of fostering a like-minded community. She says she may someday race again, as she once relished all the trappings of joining friends in preparing for competition. But more important to her is a → June 2017 mindful 49