I mentioned previously that one of my goals for the new year would be to implement some meditation into my runs. For help on this I turned Barefoot Runner’s Society member Alan Thwaits.
Alan has some great experience with meditative running and I was impressed with his tips. I asked him to write a guest blog post for me. That post became a couple of posts, and that became a series. So… welcome to Meditative Running 101!
For the rest of this month I will be posting Alan’s tips and experience with meditation and running. No matter what level of runner you are, you’re bound to find something here that will take your running to a different level. I will also be interjecting with my own comments as far as my experience in trying to implement some of Alan’s tips. Here we go:
by Alan Thwaits
I started running in 1978, at the age of 30, in order to lose weight. I ran for the next couple of years, completing a couple of 10K races and two marathons. Then life happened, and I was away from running for the next 30 years.
I got back to it late in 2007, at the end of 14 months of physiotherapy for a broken hip. (I had been run over by a truck while cycling, and now have stainless steel rods and pins in my left hip.) I’ve survived two bouts of prostate cancer, in 2006 and 2010, and am planning to live for a very long time. I’m a vegetarian and a nutrition freak.
I started barefoot and minimalist running in the summer of 2008, after reading about it, trying it, and finding it to be a natural way of running style that fits me perfectly. Since then, I’ve run a number of 10K races, a couple of half-marathons, two 30K races, two marathons, and two 50K ultras. I’m currently training for a 6 hour race, with a 30K and a half marathon as training races along the way.
I first started exploring meditation when I was 15 and became interested in Buddhism, particularly Zen Buddhism. Later influences included Hindu philosophy, the Human Potential Movement, depth psychology, and liberation theology. I have an undergraduate degree in Latin and Greek, and a graduate degree in theology. I don’t consider myself a religious or spiritual person, just someone who’s exploring what it means to be fully human.
Since I first tried meditation a very long time ago, I’ve tried many different methods of doing it, all the way from traditional Christian prayer to sitting zazen to hatha yoga to “finding God through chemistry.” They all worked to a certain extent, but none were quite right for me. What works for me is running, and what works best for me is barefoot running.
I meditate most successfully when I’m running happily, which for me means a flat, paved route, a hot day, nothing on my feet, and wearing as little clothing as I can get away with. But I have a friend who enters his most productive meditative states when he runs on hilly, forested trails. And I know other people who get there when they’re running races. Different strokes, as the old saying goes.
What I’ve written are some very basic thoughts about running and meditation. They’re based on my own experiences and the readings I’ve done over the course of the past forty years. For all that, I’m still just a beginner. If you’re seriously interested in exploring meditation, you’re in for a long journey.