Zen Running

On April 10 of this year, I will run my first marathon. The training so far has been an incredible experience; a weird mix pleasure and pain, physical but mostly psychological. Indeed how is it that I suffer almost the same way the last part of every run, whether it’s an easy 8k or a long 26k? Those last kms are always the hardest. I look at the stats on my arm – did only 30 seconds really pass since I last had a peak? – and impatiently try to get my run over with. Nonetheless, all the little hardships of a run amount to so much enjoyment that I can hardly wait for the next one. Even better than that are the blissful blanks I manage to reach on some very rare occasions.

The best ‘blank’ I had happened about a month ago while I was on my Saturday long run. I was on the pier of the Ijburg that stretches from the windsurfing center to the end of Haveneiland’s west peninsula. The dry wind was blowing on my face yet each stride felt easy. The cloudless blue sky could have tricked anyone into thinking that it’s windsurfing season again but the gloves on everyone’s fingers reminded us we were in the middle of winter.

At some point everything becomes just perfect. I get this overflowing sensation of happiness. I look straight ahead and admire the waves crashing on the rocks of the pier while a man is walking his dog. Everything seems timeless. During this period I was reading the Robot Series by Isaac Asimoc where a plainclothes policeman travels through the galaxy to solve murders on different planets and all I could think of was that this scene could belong to any of those planets anytime in the future.

This same exact fleeting moment. This pier, this dog, this man.

The strange thing is that I can contemplate this blank. Normally the smallest thought would just snap me out of it into a storm of meaningless thoughts but this time I can freely reflect on it. I can look at this perfect blank, get out and jump right back in. The feeling is really hard to describe but I’m sure any runner felt this at some point. Is that what some people call ‘Zen Running’? I have no idea, but it’s really something. And nothing at the same time.

True emptiness?

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