I have been taking a break from running in January. Resting takes self control, honesty, and patience. All of which are much easier to come by in thought than in action or inaction if you will. The last time I ran a couple of days ago I was impatient and anxious. I wanted to hang on to the fitness I thought I had lost over seemingly a very long time of inactivity. I wanted to collect those miles and get as much out of that run as I possibly could. Later that day when I was thinking about that run I realized that this approach was not sustainable for me.
Yesterday I was reminded of Haruki Murakami's book What I talk about when I talk about running. I came across the above quote and realized that I was missing out on running in a way that could rejuvenate me like no other.
I set out to run and spend the entire run focused on my breath. I always have on my breathing beads bracelet. I have had numerous incarnations of this bracelet however the idea remains the same. Each time I take a breath I move forward a bead on the bracelet. As I come to the pendant I turn the bracelet around and go the opposite direction. Rinse and repeat. When I am stressed I can even just hold the beads and feel a sense of relaxation that I attribute to my practicing. It takes practice to do just about anything and relaxing and focusing on my breath is much more difficult than one would imagine. Meditating on my breath is simple in theory. You are aware of air flowing into your lungs. You notice your belly move with the breath. In and out. In and out.
One of the issues I have had to work through is the self recrimination I felt when my thoughts wander from my breathe. I have since learned that my thoughts are like clouds when meditating just as Haruki Murakami described them as. They come and they go. Thats what thoughts do. I gently bring myself back to my breathe and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I can guide my thoughts in a relaxed and calm way to address the things that may be bothering me or to take inventory on the state of particular aspects of my life like my mothering or my relationships. I ask myself if I have had creative outlets lately or have I been challenged mentally. Doing this while running takes the edge off and turns the internal volume down to a rational level. I think about something for a beat or two and then come back to my breath letting the thoughts float away.
Another aspect of meditating while running that I have come to love is how my breathe and my steps sync up and I find that I run most efficiently at that pace. It was a rediscovered epiphany. I knew it once last year when I was first leaning to run properly and then my goals and ambitions grew and changed and I lost sight of it. I knew it to be true but didn't practice it.
Today I accepted that I have work to do but it doesn't have to be arduous or without joy. I truly believe that you build distance and the speed will come. I responded to a friends question today about which distance do you like the best and I replied that I love long runs with Fartleks thrown in when the mood hits me. Long and slow with sprints between shadows or light poles for fun. I love long runs when I get to a point when I give in to the discomfort and start thinking about other things or nothing if thats what I want.
While my thoughts wandered I realized that nerve pain I was suffering from in one of my toes has healed. While letting the thoughts flow I discovered that I had handled the last month and even the whole of winter with much more grace than I had yet given myself credit for. I decided that after taking the above picture that even though I am a few pounds heavier it does make my face look younger and my dimple shine brighter.
I was pleased that my feet are only a little tender but I have not lost my good form so no blisters or hot spots from the barefoot run. Those six miles felt like one mile with this efficient style and I think that running alone in the foggy evening was exactly where I needed to be at exactly the right time and I didn't keep track of the time. I decided to run home as it began to get dark.