I don’t run as often as I should, or would like to. For no good reason. As a kid we grew up on a flood plain that had a nice wooded area with creeks and a river behind it. My brother and I would spend countless hours wandering around making up games, building forts, and running through the forest. There was always something very basic and pleasing about being there being active and spending time in nature. Over the years, those run through the woods became less frequent, as I glorified the notion of being “busy”.
I believe that running is hard wired into each and every one of us and it is part of being human and feeling alive! Part of running is just getting the impetus to start moving and then putting one foot in front of the other. Perhaps it starts with walking, and then moves into shuffles and then back to walking. Whatever it is, we all have an innate ability to do it.
Recently I went for a run in the local area of Wasaga Beach called the Blueberry trails. It was winter and the snowshoe trails had become a hard almost concrete like footpath through the woods. No showshoes were needed and all I needed was my running shoes. An old friend picked me up and out to the woods we went for a trail run. We didn’t discuss where or how far we were going to go, there were no training goals or milage that we had to hit. We just started running.
We chatted a little, but for the most part, we just flowed with the hills and weaved with the trails and concentrated on where our feet were going to go in the next half a second. When people discuss meditation a common theme is intense concentration on nothingness, and a focus. Although I haven’t practiced meditation in a traditional sense, this unstructured trail run through the pines as the sun was setting can only be described as “meditative”. The run felt natural, peaceful and the worries of the everyday melted away.
There were no outside distractions this evening as we ran through the woods for about an hour. There were no heart rate monitors, or strava apps running in the background on my iphone. I wasn’t using mapmyrun.com or doing fartlek training or getting ready for an upcoming race. I was just running, surging and cruising as the feeling hit me. The only sound that I could hear was the crunching of the snow beneath my feet, and the rhythmic breathing as I scanned ahead for where we were going next. I we ran I wasn’t thinking of anything other than moving and turning over my strides. Too often I am found living inside my head, thinking, and planning, but while out running all I could do was focus of the now the immediate moment without thinking about events from the past, or upcoming activities from the future. I continued to breathe, focus, and breathe some more.
I enjoy training, working hard, and quantifying fitness, but getting outside of the gym and away from the treadmill or track is an experience something entirely different. I feel too often with technology we get caught up in trying to capture preserve the experience, instead of actually just living it. We have all seen those people who want to take a picture of a sunset or a concert, instead of actually just using your eyes and ears to sit and enjoy the experience. Some people would say “I feel naked running without my ______ ” fill in the blank choose one or more from the following (ipod, watch, water bottle, walkman, discman, google glasses, backpack, iphone, camelback, t-shirt, gps tracker, heart rate monitor, compression socks. If you are one of these people, then perhaps you need to bring it back full circle, and boil it down to our basic instincts and primal movements.
It has often been said that the best fitness regime is the one that you are going to stick with, and perhaps if my running had less structure, I would do it more, no milage logs, no average heart rate, no Strava tracks. This evening I was not running to get fit, I was running because it makes me feel good and connected to nature. The health benefits of these runs are an unintended consequence of doing something that makes me feel good and happy.
Leaving everything behind and running with no attachment to the outcome is incredibly liberating and enjoyable. Give it a shot and you may just find that you actually enjoy running more than your previously thought.