“I never started running to answer questions about the meaning of life. Yet while running, that drumming, body-roving on trails and tracks. through time and space …”
That’s how the writing of the book started.
I wanted to make sense of what had happened after I started running to stop myself decaying into beer-drinking and pontificating about life, politics and more.
There was no doubt I had changed. I’d started with the idea of just running and the fantasy of running the ~89km Comrades Marathon, a kind of standard here in South Africa. I then ran 11 of those marathons, and later more plus a whole lot of runs unimaginable when I was starting out.
But writing did more too. I had no idea when I started writing how the book would turn out; that thinking and writing about running would impact my running. It did that too.
As I understood more of what I liked about running, what it did for me, I could focus my running, go deeper and get still more out of running – without taking anything from anyone else.
And still I run and still I get more.
I’m glad I don’t have to stop running when recovering from a few harder weeks. I like running and getting out there into the world too much to stop now. Running is the base of much of my life.
You learn the running lessons over the years. Recovery running doesn’t mean stopping. It just means not pushing time, hills or distance. It means running lightly, hardly panting, hardly sweating. Running the bounce back into my legs. Running until I want to run more, harder, faster … but don’t. Because that’s when the adaptation to the previous weeks harder running takes place.
This morning: The second day of recovery running: all ready the well-used, stiff feeling in my legs is going. Already the bounce is there. My legs don’t want to run fast or harder yet – soon they will.
With an 80 km ultra trail run in the mountains of Cyprus in mind I set myself a target of ~50 km a week for four weeks – to see how I coped and to set a base for increasing mileage, if I coped well enough.
I coped well. More than coped. Not that it’s a surprise. I more or less know what I can do – but knowing is the mind is one thing; knowing in the legs, doing the miles out there is another.
The thing is I run every day which is always a good start. Also I’ve been getting a spring, literally, in my step from not really pushing hard. My legs surge nicely, want to run faster, even on longer runs. I reckon the the last 80+ km ultra in June, my favourite Comrades Marathon, is out of my legs by now.
I am a runner. I run every day, mostly. I run marathons to prepare for ultra’s and run two or so ultra’s a year, if I can. Ultras keep my running honest.
Four weeks base running
I figured out over the years that for me pushing my running in four weeks batches with a rest or easy week after, then pushing more miles and effort, is the best way of keeping run-robust and enjoying running year in year out.
Sometimes it’s five weeks, never more than six – the longer batches are if there is a race to do, an extra long run a taper or so, in sight. I keep going, do the race then do the easier weeks.
So this week I started off with stiff legs from letting go, knowing a rest week is around the corner and ran the long run faster. Once they warmed up I got nicely bounding steps, gentle light, held back from surging on the hills, as I have been lately.
Got back home chirpy, ready for more, but not doing more. Just getting the best buzz from running; the best from my legs.
Goals are limited
Goals are always limited, too often limiting. But if we let them, they can do more.
I understand that goals focus us and that’s a good thing.
Goals, running goals, life goals, are always come from what we see, know, understand. Too often they come from what we are taught or the demands and expectations of institutions. Goals are always limited to what we can see, by what we know, by what we have been shown .
Here’s an example of what I mean. When I started, my running goal was to get through the 86+ km Comrades Marathon before the cut-off time. It took my legs two years to get strong enough to run 10 km – that long partly because I thought running meant running at 4 min/km or less, mostly because I was unfit and overweight, with smoke-gunged lungs.
Less than a year later I lined up for the marathons and after just under another 10 hours, Comrades Medal hung on my sweaty, unbelievably fulfilled chest – in way it still hangs there.
Setting a goal gave me that. But I had got a lot more.
I had got running, got running engorged. Instead of times and records, I ran what I could imagine: whether out for hours roaming paths and roads, sneaking in under 38 min for 10 km or getting through 100 miles.
I got running and all it brings: sun, storms, under stars, rainbows and waterfalls, on mountain tracks and endless roads; I ran with people and alone, I loved running, talking about it and the glitter, colour and rhythms it gave to my life. I ran stress out of me and life into me. My mind cleared and I could see and understand things, life, in ways far different and literally unimaginable before I started running.
No training program, school curriculum or university course taught me that. No institution, international or local, world record holder talked about that. They gave races, times, rules, uniforms, officials, training programs, personal bests, the science.
But I got so much more.
Sure it’s nice to achieve goals and they focus what we do. What’s better is if we are open to learning while we chase them. There’s always more to what we know and see and value.
And so ..
Later I did set one other running goal – to write a book about running and life. But I did it less for achieving a goal I could see and understand; more because I knew I would discover so much more by doing it.
So nicely, I had no idea what writing a book would allow me to see but I knew it would be good. I got more of life and value and to run mystical miles.
A new adventure for me starts today: talking about the richness of life and running, as I wrote about in the book Mystical Miles The 2nd Dimension of Running.
My adventure began as I think it should, with a run and will go for as long as I can manage, even if I have to take a break from running from time to time – like the ultras I like to run from time to time.
Running engaged my mind from the beginning and my mind fully engaged with running. I knew I had to run … for my life. My belly was too wobbly; the survival drive in me sensed danger.
From the first steps my mind engaged to keep me going out no matter how hard it was. Running and Mind – ideas, thoughts, plans, fears, hopes and more, fused, became one – each indispensable to the other.
I ran on as I run on, mind in my footfalls and panting, which so nicely keeps opening me to More of me, of sunrises, of Everything.
There is more to running than just running.
Together running and mind showed me there is more to running than just running. Running is more than just sweat, effort, grind, blisters, tiredness under- or de-hydration. More than the training, results, records, personal bests. The work never stops, the training and measures never stop, they sweatily offer more.
And that, my run-in mind says is how life is: there is more to life than the work and chores. You have to do them. But you can do them quickly and efficiently and make time for More.
I’m sure you’ll understand that the second dimension of running of the book title is the More!
Mind in Running
Mind, as much as body and the paths on which my feet crunched kilometres, has always been part of my running. That’s how I got the riches of running.
I got most of the “how” of running from books and the people I ran with. My mind played with the what, the what-else and the why of running. From that the rich part of running, grew and blossomed
In a sense my mind had to do this. It had to find or make up a reason for all the interval and fartlek sessions, time-trials, long slow runs, training, racing, the goals and standards.
In addition to the shorter, harder work, I got longer runs. Once I got through a few weeks for being out for a couple of hours, coming back with well-run grin, I found a passion. That was enough.
Yet there was more. Running far enough quietened, calmed, emptied and so nicely scrubbed out my mind. That was more than enough.
Still more came – run far enough opened my mind just right and the outside began pouring in – sunrises, stars, the tingle of the life in grasses, sunbirds, geraniums, frogs, trees, the nicely infinite deep of the sky.
Running enough got me enough and the magically opened the way to get still more.
So running gave me a bit more of Life; became a way of getting even more of life. That was the second dimension of my running .
More on mind in running, on mental strength next time.
“Mystical Miles” an idea forged in running: Running is more than sweat, grunt, blisters, times, records and distances; running is unimaginably, immeasurably more. It’s easy enough to run in More.
The story of the discovery and exploration of the more of running is told in the book:
More about the book and how to get it here.
The Blog on this website is part of the ongoing exploration of the More, the richness and riches of running.
The more comes from running from the accumulations of running from all the training, racing short and ultra-marathon long; from running the run in, through, under: sunrises, rainbows, alone and with others; from the robustness, resilience and responsiveness running generates; from running outer tracks and trails, roads and beaches, and from inner paths, clearing inner tangles, opening mind and body to all of what is around us.
The more of running comes, you see, from all of running.
“As I tie my laces, pull up my shorts, I have already begun to change, a bud beginning to open.” Mystical Miles