Sunday, May 03, 2009
The Ecstasy of the Long-Distance Runner
This morning I ran for three hours and thirty minutes along the trails of the mountain of Busay . There were a lot of steep ascents and descents - with my heart rate reaching 150 beats per minute. I ran a slow, relaxed pace, smelling the scent of the pines and admiring the view of the neighboring mountains and the clouds. I felt one with nature and the unseen Divine Presence. Time and distance were forgotten as I savored the present moment and the rhytmic act of running and breathing. It rained as I descended towards the city, but I continued running, feeling the gentle rain and slight breeze on my face. It was pure peace and joy. I wanted to run forever. I didn't feel tired even if I was running that long on an empty stomach.
Whenever I hear the phrase "the loneliness of the long distance runner" which is based on a book published long time ago, I usually react with amusement and disbelief. Those who use this term haven't experienced the ecstasy of the long-distance run or what is called the "runner's high." Just because running is a solitary activity, it does not mean it is a lonely and boring experience. Running is a contemplative activity that can bring one to a state of flow, an altered state of consciousness or a trance. It is a moving meditation. That is why it can be "addictive."
As I ran this morning, I remembered the many times I have ran this mountain, especially as a young priest when I was training for the marathon. It is still the same mountain, the same experience - although I am older, slower and heavier. Thirty years ago, I took up running and I am still doing it today. I will be doing this for the next thirty years. It is the ecstasy of running that I want to experience over and over again.
Running is not just a physical activity, it is also spiritual and psychological. Those who do it correctly will not experience loneliness or boredom.