Yesterday I stumbled across a documentary about running marathons from several different perspectives called Spirit of the Marathon (website here, and it's available Netflix for streaming right now). I think it's a pretty accurate snapshot of how I feel, for what it's worth, but that's not what prompted this post. At one point in the movie, one of the more novice runners talks about getting addicted to times and splits and paces and new running gadgets and such - and then she somewhat skeptically mentions these weird hipster people who get their kicks out of running without a care. Zen runners, I think she called them.
I'm as addicted to gadgets and paces and times as anybody - I almost refuse to run without my Garmin 305, for example - but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the concept of Zen Running. That's what my Sundays are for. On most days I have my Garmin, my iPhone (triple duty as a music device, a GPS tracker should the Garmin fail (it never has) and a panic button if I twist an ankle or something). And a headlamp if it's early morning. And a hydration belt if the run is over 6 miles. And a bunch of gel packs if the run is over 10 miles. And so on.
But one day a week I try to be different. These days are are my Zen running days. I still take the Garmin, but only so I can keep track of miles run for purposes of seeing how much life is left on my shoes, or making sure I don't run too many miles in a week. After the fact, that is. I don't pay attention to pace - I just run however I feel. I don't try to push myself, but I don't try to slow down either. I don't go long, but I don't cut things short either. I let my mind wander to whatever it wants, which might be nothing. I try to run in nature if I can - there's a very nice wooded park about a mile from my house that is a favorite. I listen to the wind in the trees, the rhythm of my own breath, the soft (now) footfalls of my own shoes.
It's a wonderful mind clearing thing, and probably the most restful thing I do all week. There is a certain joy in moving along in relative quiet, and a healing power in the pondering I do along the way. It is the one moment when everything is right in the world, even though nothing is.