I love running.
Getting onto the track is my favorite.
I love running. It’s my time to get out of my head, into my body and into a flow state, where it seems time both passes and stands still.
Lacing-up I do the check-check: keys in pocket, music ready, laces double-tied and the final tweaks of untwisting running tights before I get rolling. Setting out, I clap my hands together and say to myself “let’s do this!” By the time my warm up is complete and I’ve made it to the track, old injuries and sore spots are already chatting away inside, testing my resolve to go faster and further than the last time I’d run. But the lure of competition in my muscle memory never fails to give me a little boost of adrenaline to test out the theory of faster and further. Fond memories of tracks from my past motivate me with excitement and to just go!
It’s a predictable formula every time. The only competitor out on the track is me alone. Depending on how I feel that day, I’m either winning or losing. Either way, the first few laps are spent focussed, pushing my stride into a challenging zone to win my red ribbon. At first, my attention is on the sound of one foot in front of the other and hearing my breath and feet pick up speed as I work harder and harder. Eyes ahead, knees up, ignore the distraction of shiny bits of garbage alongside the track.
All of the mental chatter I’ve been hauling around with me is at the forefront of my awareness with its lists, anxieties, to-dos and random thoughts. Then, a funny thing happens when I am near fatigue. I spend more attention on the chatter and less on my need for speed. Allowing a place for these busy thoughts to be noticed, I feel my shoulders soften and my pace slow a bit, getting into a harmonious rhythm of movement, letting mental stress make its way through and out.
Soon enough, timelessness sets in. I stop counting the number of laps and just notice and feel. Lean into the bend, sunshine on my cheeks, wind behind me, lean into the turn, sun on my back and a headwind…each breath, step and lap is new. Noticing the movement in the trees, what the local crows are cawing about and just letting my feet take me forward; leaving my random thoughts behind, alongside the track with the shiny garbage. Keeping effortlessly aware and present, feeling freedom underfoot and noticing that once again, I’ve lost my ponytail elastic and my hair is wild-child.
I come home to my yoga mat for an afterglow stretch. My running is an experience parallel to yoga practice. For me, they share the characteristics of presence and relaxed attentiveness to breathing and feeling. Letting thoughts move through without attachment and allowing the body to move freely, naturally and without constraint gives quick access to a state of flow, where it seems time both passes and stands still.
Whether I choose lacing-up my running shoes over unrolling my mat, the same experience unfolds: breathe, acknowledge thoughts, feel movement and when it’s all over I feel refreshed and ready to see the world with a fresh perspective.
What’s your flow? Where do you find your timelessness?