For the Love of Running: Mindfulness and the Finish Line
By: Nicole S. Wildes, LPC
Mindfulness. Ugh. I know. One more thing, right? But as race season approaches, I’m noticing way too people with their rundies in a bunch.
Mindfulness simply means showing up and being open to whatever experience you are having. Noticing. Paying attention. Presence.
I used to think it meant meditating. And I sure as shit wasn’t doing that. I don’t have time to sit on a rock and notice my breath. I don’t care that all the national and international experts in the field of happiness say it’s the number one tool that will enhance every aspect of life. I have shit to do.
But then I got tired of feeling icky. I started to wonder what would happen I got out of my head and into my body. If, perhaps, while brushing my teeth, I actually noticed the experience of brushing my teeth rather than creating stories in my head about all the things that probably would not happen that day. I mean how many times can I replay a conversation that never happened with someone I haven’t seen in two years?
So I started to practice showing up. The car was my first forte into mindfulness. Since this is the place where my thoughts run a million miles a minute, it was a good place to start. First, I simply noticed and labeled the world around me. Simple stuff- trees, car, steering wheel, music. It went something like this…
Okay, I’m gonna do that mindfulness shit. I’m just going to drive my car and be aware. Deep breath. Clouds, trees, hill- holy crap? How long has that hill been there? It’s beautiful. I’ve driven this way four times a week for about a month. OMG how did I miss that? I need to get my shit together…wait. Hold on. I’m starting one of my you-suck stories. Mindfulness crap. Deep breath.
It’s really that simple. By becoming a Noticer, I was able to create space between the stories. Just because I think it doesn’t mean it’s true or that I have to believe it. In that space between the incessant mind chatter, I can choose to notice all of the amazing pieces of the experience I am having in that moment. And that, my friends, is where you find the freedom.
Most runners I know tend to be a smidge dramatic in the days leading up to a race. They are completely trapped by their stories. What if I can’t run ten miles? What if I pick out the wrong clothes? What if I can’t poop? They are drowning in an ocean of what-ifs and it is completely unnecessary. The race usually turns out fine. Even if it’s a crappy race, there is always a sweetness and wisdom to be found in the experience. And when you practice mindfulness and create space between the stories you kick the drama down a notch. Mindfulness helps you to move into the space where you not only disengage with the story but you begin to defend yourself to the critical bi-otch inside your head.
What if I can’t run ten miles? The Noticer will think- Hmmm. Interesting thought. If I can’t run ten miles, will I die? Will anyone else die? No. OK, if I can’t run ten miles will my life really be that much different? It just means I have to train differently next time. If I were to collect evidence over these last few weeks of training, I have more evidence that I can do it. So, to the critical voice in my head- what if I can’t run ten miles? What if I can?
In the wise words of Aubrey from Pitch Perfect, “calm your pits”. Mindfulness doesn’t mean one more thing to do. It means noticing and surrendering and accepting and knowing that no one ever died from feeling a feeling. Mindfulness invites compassion into the running experience. It’s like having an amazing loving older sibling who always has your back. Most importantly, it fosters an appreciation and a gratitude for the world around you. It’s a humid day and you’re having a total shit run. You decide to notice the experience without the head drama. You notice your heavy legs and Darth Vader breathing. But you also take in the gorgeous burst of spring, the sounds of birds chirping, the smell of fresh cut grass. You notice the a-hole smoking on the bench. You notice yourself not getting caught up in the story about the a-hole smoking.
You notice it is fine.
Show up with the awareness of race day butterflies. Notice the sea of brightly clad runners and their range of abilities. The ones who think they are in the freaking Olympics and the ones who make this feel like play. Just notice.
Of course, I’m not the boss of you. But keep in mind that one day you might not have the privilege of running in a race. I wonder if the 99-year old version of yourself would have wished that they savored these precious moments instead of just trying to get through them.
Hugs & Happy Running!