I am a runner only in as much as I do run, but I wouldn’t call myself a “runner” runner. On a good week I may clock around 20 miles. Over the past year I started running again to vary my physical activity (biking, weights, and yoga). I enjoy the solitude and physical benefits, and I ultimately arrive in a place of meditation as I run.
With the Seattle Marathon in the not-so-distant future, and due in part my already being — for me — in, “running shape,” I decided to sign up for the half marathon. All was going well; a nutrient-rich diet match for my dosha, a balance of asana targeting the maintenance of an injury-free body, a short run two or three times during the week along with a longer run during the weekend…The pieces were falling into place in such a way as to lend to an enjoyable, relatively effortless half marathon in which I would attain my desired time of 1hr 40min. or less. That is, all the way up to about a month before the race.
I came down with a cold that I could not shake and ended up with the flu. As a result, I cut way back on my running and between both feeling run-down and the ultra short days filled with incessant rain, had little to no motivation to lace up the running shoes.
The race day arrived and though I was feeling much better, I knew that I was not in the physical condition I had been a month prior. I think I may have bailed had the weather not turned out to be ideal for the run; 47degrees, slight mist early on drying up by mid morning.
Doing a pranayama practice while running is not new to me, per se; I often focus on the breath while running and say over and again the mantra, “breath is energy” as I deeply inhale and exhale. But I knew I was going to have to reach deep and pull out all the stops for this run. I started out setting a good pace for myself then measured out the breath count matching my inhale and exhale in a sama vritti fashion. I maintained this meditation throughout the run and though I had to modify the count as I ran up the many hills on the course, this focus informed my gait. I was also able to hear my breath (sans ear buds and music) and though my mouth was open I could still cultivate ujayi, a slight audible quality to the breath that worked to calm my mind, maintain my focus on the breath, and worked to encourage me to continue when I hit any one of a few walls.
I completed the run in 1hr. 43min, a time I am most satisfied with. What I found interesting later was comparing my time in the first half 52:39 with the time of the second half 52:06. I believe because of the steady count and sound of my breath practice, I was able to run at a steady pace. At the end of the run and for the rest of the day I had a feeling of utter bliss I attribute to such a deep, prolonged meditation. I realize the benefits of pranayama extend far beyond the confines of our mat, our studio, perhaps our mind.
Posted by: Jeff Wildenstein