In the practice of moving meditation, one uses the rhythm of steps and breathing as a tool. This gives your mind something on which to focus, so you can get to that still, silent space inside yourself. Running is my movement meditation. The further I run, the more focus is required. Distractions take my mind down a bumpy road that always leads to, "I'm tired/bored/sore, let's stop." I look at the pavement or trail in front of me and focus on the next step, then the next, one at a time. I have to work to stop thinking about how much further I have, what I'll do when I get home, why I want to stop, and other times I've felt so tired.
This weekend, I reached a big goal for myself. I began training for a 10km race in February, with a goal of just completing it without stopping. I used a free online 'Couch to 10K' program to ease myself into things and try to avoid injury. I only missed two of my 3x/week training runs since then, and most of the training was a struggle. There were good days and bad, but I quickly became accustomed to the endorphin release and missed it if too many days passed without a run. Running is a fantastic way to release tension, I've learned. As I trained, I upped my goal to running the route in under an hour. That's when the mind work came into play.
Running that far, at that pace, required mental stamina I've only had to call upon a few times in my life. The training became less about my muscles and more about my mind. I set aside time every day to meditate, to clear out space and practice focusing. That became a very important part of training. During my runs, I would stare at the ground in front of me, let my body take over the breathing and movement, and focus my mind on each breath and step. Any wider, and my focus would dissipate and overwhelm me.
I lined up at the start line with my lifelong best friends, and we were buzzing. Everyone around us was bouncing, stretching, pacing, rocking back and forth. We all hugged, took deep breaths, and tried to calm our breathing before the work began. Our corral moved up and then we began. I set my watch and made a vow to try and ignore it. I was there to see if everything I'd practiced would manifest as a goal accomplished.
I took my time, watched my pace, and set to it. I checked in with my posture every now and again to open up my shoulders, because body awareness is a big part of any meditation practice, but especially running. I put my earphones in and let the bump-bump-bump of bass lines move me forward, one beat, one step, one breath at a time.
I saw some familiar faces along the route, including my family, and I was so happy to have their presence and support (poor Abby had a fit and missed me as I passed). After I saw them and passed the 5K marker, I knew it was time to get to the really tough stuff. I ignored the happily outstretched hands of spectating kids asking for high-fives, because I felt the call to a singular, unwavering focus. (Sorry, kids!) I remembered the goals I set, and knew that if I was to reach my goal time, I'd have to buckle down, ignore the voice of self-doubt getting louder and louder, and just do it.
I am so happy and proud, I did it! I ran it in 58:35, and stuck with my plan of focusing, moving forward and ignoring distractions. I knew I could do it, physically, but this confirmed that I could conquer my doubting inner voice. Crossing the finish line was pretty euphoric. The accomplishment means more to me than a level of physical fitness, but of mental fortitude. I persevered in the face of difficulty! I committed to a plan, stuck it out even when I didn't want to, and showed myself of what I am capable. This is big, for me.
I took home this runner's high feeling and will use it in working towards my other more daily goals. Yell less, be patient, listen, notice. I know, now, that these are things I can accomplish, too. Even for little pockets of time. It's all mental.