Skip to content

Tag: Ultrarunning

Moving Meditation for UltraRunners

I have a trick that I use when I’m running and I want the negative self-talk to go away. I focus on one simple thing: the wind. Not listening to the wind, but the feeling of it. Let me explain further. As you pump and swing your arms while running, focus on the tiny, subtle feeling of the air as it flows through your fingertips. Intrusive thoughts will still enter your mind—thoughts like “I can’t maintain this pace,” “This hurts,” “My life sucks,” or “Why did I eat that pepperoni cheese pizza at mile 57?” Allow your thoughts to come, but then intensely redirect your focus back to the sensation of the wind passing through your fingers.

Your mind is so busy trying to focus on such a small detail that it forgets the negative chatter that’s on a loop in your brain. The mind is only good at focusing on one thing at a time. There are times in a race when you have to focus and bring your attention to the task at hand, such as eating on a routine, pushing on climbs, or taking it easy on descents. However, you also encounter long stretches where there’s nothing specific to focus on, and if you have any pain, it’s going to make itself known.

When I’m engaged in what I call the “moving wind meditation”, and no that’s not passing gas from too much Tailwind. I start to forget the negative chatter. It brings back the silence to my mind. The bad, negative thoughts melt away, and I’m back to just thinking about the wind as it passes through my fingers. This isn’t to say the pain is gone; it’s just not at the forefront of my attention anymore. This may seem silly, but the next time you’re on the run and things aren’t going well, focus on the wind flowing around and through your hands. Concentrate on the wind as it passes through your fingers with each stride. It may not work the first or second time, but if you do it long enough, it can have an impact on your mental state when you need it most. Like I said, there are times to focus, and then there are times to let go. It sounds like a simple act but is more powerful than you might think. It stops you from trying to focus on all the things that are going “right” or “wrong” with your race.

LoL… Her fingers…

Thoughts are temporary, but they need to be acknowledged. Don’t fight them. The more you fight them, the more they want to stay. It’s like if I said, “Whatever you do, don’t think about pink elephants.” The first thing you’ll do is have a pink elephant jump into your mind. You have to embrace what you’re feeling, acknowledge it, or shift your attention elsewhere.

You can’t just do this for a minute or so during your run; try it for a 10- to 15-minute block, focusing on the wind passing over your hands or arms. It can be an effective tool when the negative mental chatter becomes overwhelming in an ultra.

This is adapted from a book by Eckhart Tolle.

Go within. Use the inner body as a starting point for going deeper and taking your attention away from where it’s usually lodged, in the thinking mind.

Eckhart Tolle

Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, right?  Read that last one again.  It’s an interesting line in the Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson, the main author of the Declaration of Independence, was influenced by the work of John Locke. Locke wrote about life, liberty, and property as fundamental rights.  It would have been a completely different world if the US was only about pursuing property.

Ultras and part of your inalienable rights

Happiness is a vague term, but I’m glad they used it.  Ask someone to define it and you’ll see what I mean.  Holding happiness is even harder.  I like to relate it to trying to grab a fist full of sand.  You can hold it for a while, but it’s not long before it slips through your fingers.  It’s a perpetual moving target, especially with the challenges of adulthood/aging.  In the Declaration of Independence, we were only guaranteed the pursuit, not actual happiness.  The thing is that you get to decide what to pursue.

What it feels like trying to hold happiness

Our lives can revolve around anything we deem important, the choice is yours.  Nobody will stop you if you have the time or no other commitments.  Things that seem like a waste of time to you could bring others incredible joy and happiness.  You have to be careful where you put your time.  Some choices will bring judgment from others because they can’t relate.  Physical fitness is a fine thing to sink your time into.  I’ve gone deep on running, and most commend you for your accomplishments.  We all have addictions to some degree, it’s just some might be more visible than others.

Freshly bottled happiness after creation.

There are so many choices for your “Pursuit of Happiness”.  How do you know if you picked the right one for you?  One thing you could use to measure it is how long the feeling lasts. I called it the “shelf life of happiness”.  How long after the activity does the feeling begin to fade?  Some pursuits always make me smile when I think about them. 

  • Highest shelf life experiences
    • Difficult challenges
    • Experiences with friends and family
    • Creating art and media
    • Travel
    • Volunteering
    • Teaching

  • Lowest shelf life experiences
    • Consuming media (social, video games, TV, etc.)
    • Impulse purchases
    • Mindless Scrolling
    • Gambling

The high shelf-life memories are burned into my mind and replay often.  The ones I can’t seem to replay are things where I consumed media, be it social, or TV.  The little slices of happiness are short-lived and fade quickly.  We get into this loop of what feels good and makes us happy, so we do more of it.  Those difficult challenges shared with friends and family are the ones that bond people together and go well past the expiration date.  If I start a day with a hard run or workout, happiness can last most of the day.  It makes the other events of the day, even if they are stressful, easier than they should be because the happiness from that activity is still strong inside me.  

Happy memories aging in a jar.

Memories fade, no matter how well we try to preserve them.  Believe me, as someone who’s worn a camera on his head for 100 miles.  Even after a big race, or vacation with friends and family, the photos and videos won’t stop happiness from fading. The days after seem to be the worst.  They are followed by a struggle to set your targets for your next pursuit.  Holding happiness seems impossible because you are trying to lock your state of mind.  We adapt and return to our base level of happiness after coming down from a high.

Memories past the “best by” date on the jar.

Awards, medals, or buckles that sit on a shelf may not seem like they are worth much.  They are worth what they represent.  It is a symbol of an experience, a struggle to do something great while you can.  It’s that old cliche about “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”  Sadly, everything has a shelf life.  Everything spoils at some point.  The best you get is a moment in time. I’m bottling and putting those little moments in jars with friends and family even if they spoil.  The nice house, fancy car, and amazing job mean nothing when you’re 90 years young. The last thing you’ll own is your mind and a handful of memories nobody can take from you.  Good luck with that pursuit in whatever you choose!  

What happy memories last the longest in your mind? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed please share it with someone you think might enjoy it! Thanks for reading!