Marathon Man

Focusing and getting it together on a ½ marathon run

I had been training for the ½ marathon for about 3 months. This was to be the furthest I had ever run and I wanted to be well prepared. I purposely was training on a track. This way I did not have to concern myself with traffic or pedestrians. My route was set by the track and I could focus on my running. I had a strategy for this race, which consisted of the idea of watching my breath as I ran around the track. All I needed to do was to be able to coordinate my breath with my stride and focus on the moment. In order to do this I needed to build up my mileage so that my respiration was controlled and my breath was not going too fast to monitor. If it went too fast I would lose my focus and defeat myself. I had never run in training more than 11 miles and on the day of the race I would have to do over 13miles.

The day of the race arrived and I took my place at the start. The gun sounded and I got out as fast as I could. Right from the start I started having trouble with my breath. I was so excited being in the race that I was running too fast to focus on my breath. At this point my ego was fulfilled in that I was running my fastest, however I could not keep this pace up for the entire race. I looked around at the other runners until my eyes focused on a woman going slightly slower than me. I knew that I had to change my strategy in order to complete the race. Carefully I slowed down my speed and came up about 5 feet behind her. At first I focused on her number and kept up the 5-foot gap between us. Soon my respiration started to slow down and I was able to focus in on my breath. My gaze was now inward watching the rise and fall of my breath. It was like I caught a wave and the wave was moving me along. Soon after that I crossed the finish line with a time of 1 hour 26 minutes.The last 10 miles sort of floated by as I kept my focus on my breath.

That race occurred about 18 years ago, just as I was getting into yoga from Tai Chi. Then one day while doing my practice I rediscovered my connection with my breath. Then I remembered the race and realized that I was in the same mode when running the race or practicing yoga. As a matter of fact I was in that mode whatever I was doing. It wasn’t a matter of getting somewhere but about being there with my breath. As my practice matured my breath got deeper and longer. Soon it filled my whole body and I rode the wave just as I had done in the race.

Mindfulness brings about self-awareness, which leads to the discovery of that connection we have with the universe. Our breath is the path inward to spirituality. Hang on to every minute movement of the breath and it will lead you back to yourself.