On the idea of a phenomenology of running – reply

Thinking and running are interlinked in many sorts of ways. Therefore, I think that David’s idea of digging deeper into what they could be is intriguing. Because it would take the running to a new dimension for me, perhaps not the actual practice of running, but the place running has in my life.

I guess that a common way to acquire new knowledge would be to study the theory and put it into practice in some sort of empirical setting. In this case, it might be the opposite, increasing my understanding of phenomenology through something that I hold dear: running.

So, let’s dig in to a new dimension of such an ordinary thing as running. Or is running something ordinary?

 

Zen and running: reply

 

David, I like this blog post. And it got me interested in Zen meditation. I meditate as well. But I’m just a beginner and currently in search of what suits me. I tried some guided meditations, where different techniques are involved. For example, one technique is focus on one’s breathing, and if thoughts do arrive one notes them and returns to focusing on the breath. That technique is the one that I favour. Perhaps it is related to what you write in your post Endurance and ordinary life. There is another technique, visualisation; this technique is more difficult, I think. Focus on the breath is pre-definition and an endless activity (in the sense that there is no goal of the breath besides to take another one, and if that happens to be the last one, well … ) Visualisation is however more goal-orientated, I believe. And I think that breathing is more my cup of tea as you say. Anyhow, David please write more about Zen meditation, that seems really interesting.

 

But, in your blog post about Zen you made the comparison between meditating with others and running with others. That really got to me. It is now more than twenty odd years or so since I took part in a race. It was fun, but due to some problems with an injury the fun was blurred, and it all became a mixed experience for me. Therefore, I’m very uneducated about races and what they are about. In media and general talk about running there is also a tendency to aim at times and performances. And I’m not a fast runner, not a long runner, but I like to run. To me the focus on times has a somewhat intimidating effect on me. I’m also not that interested in competing with others. I’m more interested in doing things as well as possible; and just because a person is a winner is not necessarily the same as that they accomplished a great race. I know that there are a lot of different opinions and views on this, and I’m probably way off in my thoughts and to be honest not clear what I think regarding these questions. However, the way you describe a race, David, like meditation with others, is not primarily focused on running fast and breaking records. This way is more appealing to me. So, perhaps it is time to look for a race this summer. Thank you David!

Every day running: Part 2 – logistical problems

 

It is starting to get dark outside. It is still summer, but the days are getting shorter. The drive from Gothenburg to Ramsjö in Småland took longer than expected. But finally, we are driving up the small hill and see the house of our relatives.  I run out of the car and with my bag with my shorts and trainers in my hands; I hurry up to the second floor to get changed. It is not too late yet; I will make it. Way past eleven o’clock in the evening I start  my daily run and feel relief that I’m still keeping my running streak. It is getting darker and therefore more difficult to see the road in front of me; you know, there are no lights on the country roads. Then I suddenly remember the wolves. Sometimes there are wolves roaming around in the area. Of course I didn’t see any wolves, or wild boar, which are much more common in the Småland woods: these animals are very shy. I think that my imagination played me a trick due to the early stress of not making my run in time. Running every day is not a problem most of the time. But now and again it is a hassle, and some logistical problems have to be handled.

Most days of every day running are everyday running. I find half an hour in the morning, or in the evening, depending on work and other activities during the day. For a time, I decided to run in the morning, and did so for a while. However, when winter came and it was pitch dark and slippery because of the snow outside, I gave up and bought a membership card at the gym at the campus area where I work. It didn’t work out – I never really could figure gyms out –   so I started to run in the afternoon, still in pitch dark and on the same slippery tracks. Winter is a challenge. But when spring comes and the running trail is free from ice everything is easier and enjoyable.

Another challenge are those traveling days. I have had the good fortune to travel in my work, both in Sweden and abroad. But what do you do when the plane departs at six in the morning, and you are not going to arrive until nine in the evening, and the sun set two hours earlier? The answer is, run at four o’clock in the morning: it is sort of a special feeling, and I am all alone almost all the time. And it’s not as difficult as one might think. But it wouldn’t work every day.

So the logistics haven’t been a major challenge so far. Mostly, it is a matter of planning and trying to find those opportunities that every day provides. I would like to get the habit and run in the morning, but haven’t really managed that yet. However, there are other challenges that almost stopped my running streak: like injuries and illnesses.

 

On every day running: Part 1 – why every day?

 

Last weekend I celebrated my second anniversary of every day running. I wrote a post on Facebook about it. In between the likes a perfectly reasonable question was asked: Why? I will try to give an answer, and also to give a few glimpses of how these two years have been. But first, why.

It started up with bad knees. My right knee hurt when I went out running. Therefore, I didn’t run that often. And when I did, most of the time I ran too far, so my knee started to hurt again. A vicious cycle, you know. I went to a specialist who gave me a choice: either surgery, or just see what happens. I chose the latter, already regretting my choice on the way back home. But specialists like that don’t usually sit around waiting for people to drop by through the lack of something to do. So the months I already waited connived me to let it go; now I had to try to see what happens. Later on that spring, the daily newspaper Corren carried an article about a man who was suffering from similar injuries, and that what was recommended by his physiotherapist was to run shorter distances more often. And in the article every day or streak running was mentioned. I thought that this was an insane idea. We all know that it is important to have a good old rest between workouts. And, of course, I had to give it a go! The same day I started to run.

The first week I just thought, give it one week. And then I can quit. So I gave it one week; and then two. Still surprised that it was possible. Then the third week came. And I just carried on, probably a bit surprised about it all, if I remember rightly. Around this time my mental approach to running started to change. Gradually my focus shifted from ‘is it possible to run every day?’ to ‘for how long is it really possible?’ Perhaps a subtle difference, but for me the difference was quite apparent. I went from having a laugh, to more of a serious curiosity about how long.

Before I go on, I think that I have to clarify what I mean when I talk about running. I’m not in a hurry. I’m not participating in any races. I run once every day, in the morning, evening or even in the night. I have one rule: to run more than 1 mile, 1.61 km every day. Actually I’m lazy and don’t push myself if I don’t want to. Most of the time I’ve run a bit more than 2 km, but many times 5 km and sometimes 15 km up to 20 km. But that is on rare occasions. I have a family, and there are other things that have to be done every day. So I can’t be out for hours. But I can always squeeze in 2 km. And if I feel good, am healthy and not injured, and I have the time, I go out for a longer run.

This is my philosophy of running, and it suits me fine. The best thing about running every day is that if I’m tired, or think it is boring, or I am short of time, I don’t feel bad if it is a short run, i.e. at least 1.61 km. During the two years since I started to run every day, I have never felt bad, or stressed for not working hard enough, or that I’ve run too short a distance; because I always know that I will run tomorrow. It is a sort of guilt-free running. Running always makes me feel good. But of course I don’t train for anything particular. So I can’t fail – I can only be a winner. This is my philosophy, and most of the time my practice. But not always. Sometimes logistics are in the way.

In the long run 2

David, I think you are right. And I agree. But I also feel gnawing anxiety that there could be something more to this. It is the quote from Matthew Syed that caught my attention, the thing about a fragmented world and that the personal challenge events will just will keep growing. Isn’t there a kinship between a fragmented world and personal challenge events? When one thinks of running, isn’t there a risk that running could become more of a tool to create an identity as a runner, and that every run or workout becomes a cog in this machinery, especially if one loses the joy of running?

I think the question derives from another question, more all-embracing and diffuse: why do we run?

In the long run

Thinking while running

Running and thinking are interlinked activities, but they revolve around different logics: at least for me. Often when I go out for a run I have some form of idea of how far, or how fast, and where I will run. Most of the time, I would like to say 95 percent of the time, I run according to my plan. A short run in the nearby forest, or a long run on the countryside, or around town. Sometimes I’ll go for an interval run, but not so often because I don’t like it before I do it but always after; and I seem not to ever learn that it is that way. My running is, so to speak, a planned activity.

I always think when I run. I guess that I always think. But I could never plan my thinking the way I plan my running. Many times a good run can lead to a solution of a problem that has been haunting me for some time. There are certainly good biological explanations to this, like that the pre-frontal and limbic regions of the brain spew out endorphins which make you euphoric, and the body pumps out endocannabinoids which make you calm. http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/how-to-achieve-a-runners-high

Although I have the knowledge and the experience of these effects of running, I can’t plan for a solution to a problem. As a matter of fact, most of the time I can’t, even in advance, decide to indulge and digest a certain particular problem during my daily run. The problem presents themselves when they do, as well as the solutions.

I’ll guess that I’m not alone. Most of us plan our run, distance and stride, and if some clever thoughts announce themselves during the run we see it as a bonus. We might say:

“Oh I had such a good run this morning. You know what we have been talking about last week? I know how we should go about it”

But there are some runners that just go out for a run. Not having decided how far and how long they will run that day. I wonder if such approach to running could create openings for a more planed thinking while running?