In his book Eat and Run, ultra-runner Scott Jurek talks about being a young college student running in the woods, training for his first 50K run, and finding this point where his body reached a smooth rhythm and running became a meditation. He says, “Somewhere between my agonized, gasping high school forays….and now, running had turned into something other than training. It had turned into a kind of meditation, a place where I could let my mind–usually occupied with school, thoughts of the future, or concerns…–float free. My body was doing by itself what I had always struggled to make it do… I felt as if I was flying.”
In Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, ultra-runner Jenn Shelton explains her meditative running point like this: “When I’m out on a long run….for once my brain isn’t going blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow. It’s just me and the movement and the motion.” (page 149)
From the same book, the author describes how Ann Trason explains the difference between struggling to run and relaxing into a run: “Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn’t get it because they’d never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size 6 jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can’t muscle through a five-hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it.”
And lastly, same book, “If you don’t have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain’t getting them.”
In my own running experiences, a 5 mile run is way easier than a 2 mile run. It takes my body at least 2 miles to get into a good rhythm and get the endorphins flowing. Most people who train for their first half or full marathon will tell you the same.
When I ran the John Dick Memorial Crusty 50K in February 2010 in the snow in Kettle Moraine State Forest, it was genuinely just me, snow crunch, and the beautiful woods. Running for such a long time that my iPod had long ago died. Running in solitude. And it was beautiful. It wasn’t as much of a struggle as shorter chaotic runs. It was smooth. I miss that. I miss the meditative bliss that comes from endurance running. I can’t wait to get back to that.
What do you think? Have you reached a point in a run that was almost meditative? What words of encouragement could you offer to beginning runners or those in the struggle phase of running?