A fellow participant on the Yahoo Group, posed the following question to the list:
The question I’d like to ask the other runners is, has anybody ever hit a point where you’re REALLY satisfied with your running?
Happy, sure. We are all happy with a good time. But satisfied? I’ve never run such a race yet myself. Ever. I guess that’s why I don’t set PR’s all that often although I am at a age which most my peers PR all the time. I am happy and satisfied out there just running and hanging out with friends. I can be very competitive and obsessive with time and numbers, but I choose not to, because that would take the fun out of my running. I know myself well enough to know that when the day I don’t find running fun anymore, I would stop completely. And I don’t want that to happen.
I don’t even keep a logbook anymore. Time and distance just are not important to me. What’s important to me is “Yes, I run today. No, I did not run today.”
Am I satisfied? I ask myself that question on a regular basis. It’s all part of the journey to become a mindful runner. And what is a mindful runner, you might ask?
To paraphrase Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal detective Sherlock Holmes, most people “see but do not observe, hear but do not listen.”
A “mindful” person is aware of everything around them, their affects on both the internal and external world and consciously making choices, aware of the consequences of those choices. It is the process of acknowledging the influences that affect our choices. Instead of reacting spontaneously and unconsciously to the stimuli around us, we become mindful of our place in the world.
Am I satisfied? Well, both yes and no. Let me clarify.
When am I not satisfied with my running?
I’m the most dissatisfied when I’m injured and can’t run. Nothing is worse than knowing that all that hard work you put in to create the best and fastest you, is slowly leaking away. It’s knowing that your goals and personal bests are that much further away that hurts the most. It’s knowing that when you are able to start running again, that you’ll have to start that much further back from when you were first injured.
Sometimes, it’s not the lack of the physical act of running that’s the issue, but the social aspect that I miss. It’s at times like these that the separation from the extended running family is felt most. I miss the release that only running and talking with fellow runners can give me.
Sometimes, it is when I feel out of joint with my running self. It’s days like these that it is all a struggle, from trying to find time to get out the door to the time I stop.
I don’t run on days like these, I don’t even jog, I plod. Each stride seems to be a fight against the couch potato trapped inside me. I hate days like these. I don’t feel like an athlete, I don’t even feel like I’m pretending to be an athlete. I feel like the farthest thing from it. Usually a good nights sleep and a couple of days rest can cure this, so I know it’s a temporary affliction.
Then there are other times when I’m not running at the top of my game. When I can’t meet the standards of performance I set for myself on race day. We all make excuses and justifications. However, for me, it’s only for a short while immediately after the finish line. Within hours, I’ve reconciled my performance and have moved on.
In the end, all these afflictions and setbacks, so far, are temporary, so I don’t stay unhappy for long.
When am I satisfied?
I’m satisfied when I run with my friends. I get to share their troubles and triumphs, and they get to share mine. Shared problems become smaller, and triumphs become larger. There’s something about sharing time, miles, effort and sweat with others that create the strongest bonds. Sometimes, it’s eight hours spent in the same vehicle traveling to and from a race that can give you the most insight in you and others.
It’s hard not to be satisfied when you are running smooth and strong. There are those runs where you feel powerful, even invincible. It’s moments like these that you run and cherish. It’s moments like these that you chase after the rest of your life.
When I can meet my goals, it’s hard not to be satisfied. But when I don’t meet those goals, I can be content knowing that I gave everything I had that day.
The best runs are those that come unexpected. They are the sight of hoar frost on trees in winter, the chance encounter with deer, rabbits and hawks on the trail, the unintentional PB, the sun on your shoulders and wind at your back. Those are the days that your feet are wings and you run like the wind.
When I run by myself, I can feel one with the world round me. If I’m running on the track or on the road or on a public path, if I can run as a mindful runner, I can feel the ground pass beneath my feet, the strain as I push through each step, my left hand moving in opposition to my right foot, my breath cleansing my soul.
When I run on trails, I can run outside myself and become at peace with the woods, rocks and streams around me. It’s on these runs that I become a little closer to the universe around me. I’m part of the spin of the world and the story of time.
Am I satisfied? Well, most of the time. But then again, it’s hard not to be, isn’t it?
By Mark G. Collis