The wind whooshes past my head, undulating gusts catching the tiny hairs on my ear lobes. I become aware of the warm pulses of blood streaming into my ears as the breeze draws my attention there.
Running for two hours or more usually brings about this sort of razor focus, as I seek inner peace, a sensation of freedom, and that post run endorphin rush.
Clearing the Busy Mind
At the start of my run, my mind was busy, thoughts darting around my head. Synapses firing non-stop, electric signals bouncing everywhere as the day’s events, work, family, and life in general streamed through my mind.
At this point in my journey on the trails today, the questions and observations circling around in my head have faded away. My mind is just about empty. I may be running, but my mind has entered a meditative state.
All I experience now is the quiet woodland and trails whizzing by. The rocky gravel surface below my feet feels like it is moving effortlessly under my shoes. The sounds of my feet hitting the ground are my own personal metronome, ticking over at a constant rate. They skirt the surface of the path below me, barely skimming it in an efficient cycle of motion.
I have run this trail hundreds of times over and my feet know every hole, rock, and tree root. They automatically find optimum positioning on every step, maximising energy efficiency.
I finish a long section of undulating hills and gravel paths that follow a remote power line. The route rounds down a hill that circles back around, sending me back up a long gently inclining hill. My mind and body are now in unison.
The run has had me maintaining a steady, quick pace the entire time, and this gentle hill feels effortless. After the sudden realisation that I have been cruising comfortably for the last few miles, I increase pace. The acceleration and increasing pace up the hill empowers me, setting off a positive feedback loop which allows me to quickly leave the hill in my wake.
As my direction changes and the wind is no longer in my face, sweat begins pooling above my eyebrows again, flooding over the previous dried salty layers. It soon breaches this hairy boundary and enters my eyes, setting off a fiery burning sensation.
The burning doesn’t bother me. I am one with the trail now, and I feel liberated. Free from life’s current burdens, the day’s worries, and every other issue that has plagued my mind recently. In my meditative state the physical challenges of the distance and trail barely bother me anymore, and I keep pushing further.
These are the sensations of freedom that I strive for in trail running and long ultra runs.