I would never have imagined that a monk would teach me to run.
Over the past three months or so, following my DNF in May, I have been getting it together by following a training programme.
This was a programme put together by record breaking ultrarunner Damian Hall. He bases much of his coaching on the approach by David Roche. David is a great advocate of easy running — you can run as easy as you like.
Easy running makes you quicker. Didn’t you know? I am not going to explain to you how, because David can here.
I can tell you that it works from my own experience.
I was pretty broken after two years of non-stop ultras. The pushing, straining, mile after mile initially worked, but the stress on my body caught up. You can’t keep going at that intensity without something giving. I see these folk in the clinic — the ones who are stuck.
So easy together with consistent and regular movements, stretches, stability and strength with have built me a base. What’s more, it has brought the joy back and the confidence to keep going. Perfect timing too with the SDW 100 miler next Saturday.
Thich Nhat Hanh
A great advocate of mindful walking, Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to slow down, be in the here and now and cultivate a peaceful way.
I used to try and practice mindful running, but somehow had put this way to the back. Instead, I became over-focused on the feelings in my body and trying to work them out. This was part of the reason for the DNF. It is unsustainable because every little ache and pain becomes amplified.
Together with the easy running, I thought I would listen to Thich as I trotted along. To be able to listen to someone or a podcast whilst running means that your pace is easy — not stressful.
Thich guides many meditations, but the one I was listening to resonated. It also worked in as much as I became calmer and calmer, running relaxed and easy. Perfect!
This is the kind of practice I share with people who come to see me. Most if not all benefit from creating a calmer embodied mind having been dealing with many different challenges at the root of their suffering. Persistent pain in particular and the consequences.
The beauty of the practice is that it is so simple. Whilst it may not be for all runners, if you are someone who wants to master the easy run to become quicker, you may find it helpful.
Here are the words. I will share a recording soon.
Try this if you like.
Run easy, which means with flow, smoothness and upright, using your body as a guide — no strain. Notice your breathing, but do not try to change it or control it. One way is to place your attention at the end of your nose and become aware of the air flowing in and flowing out.
With your awareness now upon the flow of your breath, silently say to yourself: breathing in, I am aware I am breathing in. Breathing out, I am aware I am breathing out. The shorten to breathing in, breathing out.
This brings your attention to your breath in the here and now. If your mind wanders, simply start again. This is a practice.
Some people enjoy the presence and rhythm that this brings, somehow becoming part of the overall movement of running.
A further mantra that I use to remain present and at ease is: breathing in, I calm my mind. Breathing out, I run easy. Then shortened to calm mind, easy running.
Of course, you can create your own as well. Choose words that give you gentle direction that you can follow.
Notice what happens.
Let me know if you like. I’d love to hear.
Next time, some thoughts on nose breathing — because that is what it is there for.
PS/ If you are up on the South Downs Way next Saturday-Sunday and see me or want to join me for a few miles, let me know. I am running to raise £ for St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne and in memory of my dad: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/richmond-stace11