I like to go for a run. It’s not that I’m a great runner or a serious runner. I’ll go out maybe two or three times a week and run 5km. No ultra-marathon for me.
I started running perhaps 8 or so years ago. Over a Christmas break I decided to download one of those Couch to 5K phone apps and within 6 weeks was running 5kms on every outing. I’ve kept this up over the years. Mind you it gets a bit harder in tropics leading up to and through the wet season. It gets very hot and sticky and then very wet. Not conducive weather to any exercise.
I’m by no means an elite athlete. A “plodder” more than anything else. I’m not doing it to win races but for my own wellbeing.
Running and Connection with Place
When I run, I’m given the best opportunity to take in my surroundings. Visually I can observe the streets, houses, trees and people around me. I observe what is happening and after a time what is changing on my route. I can observe the positive changes, the not so positive and those things that are just not right. The repetition and observation of where I run brings about a visual connection to the place, I’m in.
Added to this is the physical contact I make when I’m running. Hopefully, this contact is only my feet pounding the pavement, but there have been times when there has been some full body contact. The physical contact provides an entry to a more intimate connection with the place I’m in. The more I run through an area, the more physically connected I become to it. I know where things are, where it is nice and shady, where the tough hill is and where it feels good to run. The physical connection creates an emotional connection to place and, after a time, a love of place. Peter Kageyama has written extensively on the love of where you live. Running in my local area reinforces this loving relationship.
Running and Connection with Others
Running allows me to connect gently with others. This might only start with a nod but it is a start in making connection to those around me. I usually run around the same time of day so I often run past the same people. Over a period of time we become familiar with each other and connect on some level. Sometimes there is a brief conversation. This could be as simple as “how far are you running?” but it is a start to future discussions and contact. I’m certain if I saw these people in other environments there would be time to deepen this contact.
I use a phone app to record my running distances. Just to make sure I get 5kms in and I’m not cheating myself. Yesterday I chose to listen to a guided run on the app. The guide was Andy Puddicombe, one of the co-founders of the Headspace app for meditation. One of his points was that running connects us to place and to each other. Basically, it highlights that we are all in this together. Your struggle is my struggle and your happiness is my happiness. We share the human condition and part of this is that we are social beings who seek connection with others.
Running and Connection with Self
One of the really positive outcomes of running or any exercise is that it forces me to focus on what I am doing at the time. The physical exertion makes it difficult for me to focus on anything else. In that way it is a stress reliever. There have been times when I’ve used as an important break between the work environment and home. It helps to let the negative thoughts go so I don’t dwell on them and lose my own personal power.
The exertion gives space for me to be more mindful of my own thoughts, dreams and aspirations. It is a great place to begin to create. But it is more it allows me to mindfully observe these thoughts, not to question just to observe, label and let go. This allows a deeper intimate and loving connection with myself.
Running allows me to connect with where I am, with others and with myself but I’m certain that so many other actions can do the same thing. Music, social get togethers, nature walks can all do the same thing. The important thing is to be open to this connection and allow it to happen. And in the end isn’t that really a big part of what community is about? Being open to place, others and self.