Sunday, June 12, 2005

Running retreat

There is an article in today’s Observer about the growing popularity of retreats that contains:

Adam Phillips, the psychoanalyst and writer, is not surprised by the growing popularity of retreats: 'People are aware of having too many external stimuli. What do you hear when you stop listening? The question is about whether anyone has an internal world any more.'

This is what running provides. Every week my long run is the equivalent of a retreat, because there is nothing but the movement of the body through space. This can happen automatically – you get into a rhythm and the body takes care of itself allowing the mind to be blank or drift onto various topics so that attention can drift. Alternatively there can be full attention and one is aware of how the muscles and breath are working together. In a similar way you have a sense of the space you are moving through, either through having to pay close attention to the ground because when you are off-road you have to be careful where your foot lands or by having a more generalised appreciation of the landscape, which tends to come in and go out of focus.

Through running you discover your animal core and without that I do not believe you can have a complete sense of being. Running is obviously not the only way to do this; yoga, for example, stretches the body to prepare the mind for meditation. I find running a better route because it is simpler, more direct and rhythmic. However I only really get a sense of oneness on long runs. In one of my earlier posts about injury I quoted Joe Henderson saying that when he was not running he really missed the short, nondescript, filler runs. With me that is not the case - I easily drop those. What I miss, and miss with great interior agitation, is the long run and the chance (as it does not happen every time) of getting to the state of sensing the body with an empty mind.

I think this forms part of my manifesto for the soft-core runner. The hard-core runner is deeply wedded to stats and targets, mileage and times (mostly long and short, in that order) but I am soft-core and my objective is the ineffable sense of being a good animal. Through that, eventually I might become a better person. (The might and eventually are heavily underlined in the last sentence).


beanz said...

another great post

must get back to ths runing lark

and must find somewhere better to do a long run than up the A6!

need a partner!

Laura said...

Most definitely soft-core, but still waiting for the moment that my 'body takes care of itself'. If only...

Love the way you write about it. I almost want to put my shoes on.

Highway Kind said...


Yes you must try to find somewhere that lifts your spirits - it makes a big difference. Maybe you'll have to drive a short distance but there must be a way

after seeing that picture on you blog I know you really want to escape from high heels and run.

Leon said...

I found myself nodding all the way through this post!
On my old blog I wrote of almost exactly the same thing - and I realised that I felt like I was almost reading my own thoughts.

The difference is that you have ecapsulated in a single post that which I tried to express in pages and pages myself!!!!

Ah well... such is life

Highway Kind said...


This whole blog is just a way of repeating this one simple insight in different ways

So I look forwards to reading more of the same from you in your new blog