Running the Self Away

We do not rid ourselves of these things
even when we are cured of personal silence
when for no reason one morning
we begin to hear the noise of the world again.

-Carolyn Forche (From City Walk-Up, Winter 1969)

When I run I am meditating. And just like during seated meditation, I find my mind wandering from here to there, trying to make sense of things while also planning for the future, distant and immediate. This used to be a distraction but now I just let it happen. To try and meditate, or in this case, to try and run without these thoughts is to spend way too much time attempting to control this effort. This is just plain silliness.

I meditate because I am genuinely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that surrounds me. This stuff consists of physical and sensory input that isn’t vital. All such things seem to remain at the top of my mind, thus keeping me from being able to do much of anything except pace through the house and hope to find the one circuitous trail that leads me to a peaceful place. It’s like a maze on the back of a cereal box and I keep getting trapped in a dead end. Only to start all over and do it again.

But running is my magic.  My drug. It manages to lift me over these obstacles and light my way to the peaceful center. It grounds me, both physically and spiritually, to a world that might otherwise stifle to the point of immobility. Running is movement and breath. It’s how I let my mental wheels spin at their pace until everything quiets down and eventually syncs up, making time pass without notice. When things finally click, hours literally tick away in what seems to be a blink. It’s a wondrous death of the self, albeit for a brief moment.

I am in training for a 50-miler being held at the end of August. This leaves me eight weeks or so to prepare my body for a grinding day. In order for me to disappear for the majority of the 8ish hours it’ll take I have to put in some aggressive and calculated training runs. This weekend I’ve successfully pulled off a ‘back-to-back long run’ (meaning long runs on both Saturday and Sunday) on legs still wobbly from my Thursday speed workout. Good stuff.

Biggest bonus from this addiction is in how it influences my writing for the rest of the day. Usually I am a slow reader and take a while to get pen to paper – but on the days I’ve run I find that the words on a page make more sense and my brain more efficiently processes creative thoughts. I am able to exist at a certain depth that helps me ignore the (literal but mostly figurative) noise and clutter around me. Maybe I’ve just discovered another side-effect of my obsession with running – maybe I’m just finally tuning into it in a way that largely excludes competition and ego? But it’s really of no matter – as long as I am getting it done and come to love life a little bit more it’s worth it.

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