I was thinking about this today – while I was running, of course – and realized that my answer really has to be given in two parts: one part being where my body goes and the other, where my mind goes.
I love running in the hills, especially the ridge trails where the vistas are quite breath-taking and deep in the woods where the lush green and warm earthy smells bring a richness to my day. But there’s the other side of running for me which is what I think of as “moving meditation” but I suppose is more accurately introspection.
It’s pretty easy on a short run or a speed run (for you runners out there: Fartleks and Tempos) to stay very much in the body and very much in the physical world – it’s part and parcel with the task at hand – getting faster and increasing power. But the long runs are a different situation entirely. I’m a pretty new trail runner – just a bit more than a year now – so my long runs may not seem all that long to you but I figure when you’re out there for more than an hour, more than 2 hours, that’s a long run! So what happens during those runs for me that’s so different?
Once my body has had a chance to unwind, I find a rhythm and hit my stride (sort of) I find that my mind, my psyche, my spirit, whatever you want to call it, takes the lead and off we go – sometimes on adventures (thinking about an upcoming race as I see myself speeding across the finish line) or getting into problem-solving mode (I often resolve tricky problems my clients have brought me once my mind is free to comprehend, coalesce, compare, and conflate).
Other times, I find myself with my guard down and my emotions just bubble up – hmm, bubble isn’t a good word here…erupt…yes, that’s a better word. Nothing is held back and there’s certainly no reason to hold back – so off we go – I’ve done some of my best grieving on the trail, with the trees and the birds as my witnesses. I’ve felt the the raindrops mingle with my tears as I ran, and ran – not from my grief but into it, with it, through it. I’ve felt the warmth of the sun kiss my lips as smiles bloomed from a particularly sweet thought of someone I love.
Yes, I’m delighted by the reminder that the richness of nature is at least equaled by the richness of my experience – when I allow myself to connect to it, to be a part of it, to be nurtured by it.
Maybe, for me, the most important answer to “where do you run?” is “to my true and fullest self”.