Previously I have written about the personal benefits of running and how it gives me the opportunity to reflect on life, work and other pressures. Being competitive with myself I found I was running to go faster and then check my running app to review my data. Looking at other people’s run data I noticed they had deliberately slow training runs and several other people were stopping to take pictures on their runs which makes following them through the app even more interesting.
One day I went for what I call a “head run” just to clear my mind and help my mental health. For the first time I had no planned route, no target for my pace and did not listen to any music. I really enjoyed the run and enjoyed looking around me. It was, even for me, a slow run but I was very happy with it and whilst reflecting afterwards I was reminded of a story I found years ago online called “missing the gorge.”
The story goes along the lines of three westerners decided to walk through a gorge whilst on holiday in Thailand. They decided to walk it in a quick time. Whilst on the walk they pass a group of Buddhist nuns one of whom calls out to say, “you are missing the gorge.” The writer is taken aback and asks the nun what she means; he has cuts and bruises to prove he is not “missing the gorge”. The nun says she could tell that they were westerns by the way they were rushing and asks him to sit down. Once he has sat down, she asks him to close his eyes and to listen and to smell. He slowly begins to notice that he can hear birds, the flow of water, the wind in the trees and starts to smell the plants and flowers. He notices the heat of the rock he is sitting on.
He thanks the nun for the insight and he starts to follow his colleagues who have not stopped. However, the nun makes a further comment which stops him in his tracks – “I hope this is not a symbol of your life!”
For most of my runs I will choose a musical playlist to fit my mood and look to achieve a certain time or pace, but for some runs I will not have any music playing and do not have a target pace. This can help me to listen to my breathing and think about my running technique, or I will consciously think about a work problem or situation. However, quite often I will deliberately not focus on work, but try to observe and enjoy my surroundings.
I know I am competitive with myself and as a data geek I am a slave to my performance and reports from my running app but before or after and (very) occasionally during a run I will now stop and take a photograph and load it on my app. I realised that I became “a bit obsessed” with my times, so recently I have deliberately run more slowly, concentrating on something else and not pressurising myself to achieve certain targets.
Adjusting and being in the flow….
For my last half marathon, I did not aim for a specific time, I tried to concentrate on the course and to enjoy myself, which I did. I did not achieve my best time, but it was my most enjoyable half marathon to date.
I regularly participate in Park Runs and always try to take and upload a photo at each one, especially at my local Park Run so I can see the impact of the changing seasons on the woods and on the number of layers I wear; clearly I feel the cold.
I know running is not for everyone, but we all need some time to reflect and to observe our respective gorge. I know of friends who knit and as they are accomplished at it, they can relax and use that time to reflect. Other friends use swimming or yoga for the same purpose.
Finding what works for you
It is about finding what works for you and practicing it. It will not always work and at first it might be hard, but the investment of time into yourself will be worth it. Importantly I have found that you should not be critical of yourself, keep trying, everyone struggles with a new task or skill, so enjoy the experience of reflecting, learning and improving.