Beth Runs!

After sitting on my butt all winter, knitting and watching Craig Ferguson into the wee hours, it's time to get up, get out, and move!!!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Playing hookie, or why a footrace is the same as a group meditation retreat...

Another 6 months, another meditation retreat. Sitting with a group of people, all with the same intention. Running with a group of
people, all with the same intention. Meditation, sometimes difficult, sometimes effortless. Running, sometimes difficult, sometimes effortless. Meditation, following the breath. Running, following the breath. Compassion from other meditators. Compassion from other runners. Meditation, non-competitive. Running, non-competitive.

Really? How can that be?

I don't know what the elites experience, but for me, an average runner, often struggling, with no expectations of winning, each runner ahead of me is an inspiration. "Come on!" their backs are saying to me. "Look, it's possible to go this fast. I'm doing it! So can you!"

I'll admit, I don't always have this enlightened perspective. But when you sneak out to run a race during a meditation retreat in which you've been experiencing some of most profound silences of your life, it's kind of hard to be competitive. And what a joy it is to feel supported as you ascend 800 feet up a mile-long dirt fire road, breathing rhythmic but hard, heart pounding, mind focused only on the moment, the body, and the ground ahead. And what a feeling to make eye contact with the course monitor at the top of the hill as you approach the halfway point, turn, lean forward, and fly, almost literally, back down the hill, allowing gravity to do the rest of the work. Letting go. Feeling resistance melt away.

Running. Meditating. No difference.

Now, back in the world of facts and figures, I feel the need to report the details. Race: Coleman Elementary School Run For The Gold in San Rafael, just a few blocks from the Santa Sabina Retreat Center. Distance: 6K. Course description: Leisurely run through historic Dominican University to trail head and then up an 800 foot elevation on fire trails. Benefits The Coleman public elementary school in San Rafael. My time: 49:56. Place: probably 41 out of about 100. There was a mix-up with the race results.

And I must also reveal that quite a few of the runners were little kids, which really added to the fun. Unless they have an adult to pace them, little kids will start out running as fast as they possibly can, arms flailing every which way, until they are absolutely spent. Then, doubled over panting, barely able to walk, they insist that they can't go another step. But somehow, a minute or so later, they have all the energy in the world and take off just as fast as before. They remind us what it was once like to run for the pure joy of moving our bodies.

And finally, looking closely at these race photos, I am reminded of the immortal words of one of today's most important poets:

What you gon' do with all that junk?
All that junk inside your trunk?
I'ma get, get, get, get, you drunk,
Get you love drunk off my hump.
My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump,
My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps (Check it out)