A Path, A Direction, A LifestyleLeave the first response January 26, 2009 / Posted in Mindful Running
A Path, A Direction, A Lifestyle
© Austin “Ozzie” Gontang, Ph.D.
In the past several months several thousand of you have accepted the marathon challenge. You have overcome obstacles both physical and mental and touched the spirit of the marathon which now lies within you.
To you who followed the blue line through New York City, we acknowledge you and your efforts. To those who passed the Iwo Jima monument we say, “Well done.” Past Diamond Head, along Old Highway 101, through thousands of images locked within your marathoning mind, we remember with you. The feelings and memories are indelibly imprinted upon your soul. If you don’t believe in the soul, then those same feelings and memories are indelibly imprinted upon your inner core.
So many people, their names unknown, are remembered forever, you having only traveled a few miles with them within the marathon. Their words somehow lifting your spirits. Or you theirs…and the gracious parting: “See you later.” “Do well.” “Keep going.” “Thanks for letting me run with you.” The face or faces in the crowd imprinted like a digital photo when you close your eyes and relive moments along the course.
The smells, the sounds, the quieting of panic as a muscle twinge or a sharp pain rain thoughts of not finishing…and knowing that no matter what, you will finish. The amazement of the last 2 or 3 miles when you recover your running speed after having run 6 to 10 miles not knowing if you would finish. The smile, the tears, the unexpected feelings and emotions and tears, the moment of inner quiet, the outpouring of gratitude and thanksgiving, the welling up of tears…at unexpected moments. Where did that feeling come from? Weeks or months later, being moved to tears at the athletic artistry of a skater, a gymnast, watching the Iron Man,…my God…even listening to some music or hearing a poem on NPR.
A nerve ending? Yes. A nerve ending? No. Only a beginning to the metaphor which you have just lived out publicly as you completed your marathon. For no one else could do it for you. No one could give you a gift so great or a challenge so moving. And now you are joined with those who on the plains of Marathon, did not march lock-step against their opposition. They ran at their competitors…who were seeking to end the spirit of democracy as known in Athens. The few overcame the many.
No matter how much you discount your efforts or inflate your exploits of your marathon, at that moment, at that time, in that place, and with individuals and a roster acknowledging your presence, you were in the moment.
While you can live for years, talking about the marathon you ran, the endurance lifestyle as mirrored in the marathon calls you and me and all of us to realize that we are interdependent. We are called to make a difference, in whatever small way. We are called to run “The Marathon” called life…well.
Why many of us do more than one marathon, is that it is a reminder of practicing all the time to do The Marathon well…and then to see if my mind and body were in sync on that day of the marathon. In the greatness of the throngs who surround the marathoner on that day, at that hour in that place, comes the balance of a black night somewhere in our lives. Looking up at the Milky Way…which almost looks like a cloud…and knowing for a few moments again…our place in the universe.
We salute you, who have traveled the Marathon. We salute you who have allowed us to touch that moment again vicariously…knowing that it is not about thoughts or memories. Life is about living in the moment. And in the marathon, we get to experience those moments which touch the spirit we all share as runner, hunter, food gatherer…or as St. George said, “You are called to be poet, artist, philosopher, saint and athlete…but first and foremost be a good animal. In your practice of being a “Good Animal” Joseph Campbell would reflect that we are only a few breathes away “in universal time” from our early ancestors. Marathoning has gotten us in touch with our oft forgotten abilities to go long distance and to endure. Let our runs after the marathon bring us back to the moment.
While I can share these thoughts with you at the speed of light, I still must practice what helped our ancestors survive…the ability to run long distances…if and when necessary. To be a good animal.
As I ran around Mission Bay today, I remembered my fellow Marathoners. Running for me is my way of practicing. It allows me to be in the moment.
I am not a marathoner because I ran a marathon. I am a marathoner because I bring the being in the moment while marathoning to my daily life. My running helps me be a good animal, so that I can do my life consciously and with mindfulness. But being human, it is a direction in which I move…and no motivational words can replace the practice. It’s in the doing. When there are no words, there is only the practice. Know that, when you find yourself needing words to move you, you have my money back guarantee that you will find them between 30 and 60 minutes into your run. And it’s a lifetime guarantee.