One day I laced up a pair of running shoes to learn how to run, who knew that one day they would teach me how to fly…
Through your journey into mindful running, there will be a point where you must unlearn what you know. From here you can readjust and use your intuition to cast you forward because to run mindfully, is to run from where the real power lies…
The real power lies run from within…not from without.
Running while motivated by external rewards only take us so far. In this way, you are running from an egoic state. In other words, running from the false self. For the sake of this article, we will call it your “outer runner.”
Your outer runner is motivated by things like finisher medals, online race times, and finish line photos. And although there’s nothing wrong with using these outcomes to drive you forward, you may find them to be short-lived.
Therefore, if you want to run frequent long races and find longevity as a long distance runner, you will run into a problem. You will see that the longer you run, the more difficult it becomes for your outer runner to keep up.
So unless you discover a deeper meaning in the distance…it becomes relatively easy to give up on running, that…or running gives up on you...
That’s because external rewards come and go, and although they provide a sense of satisfaction in the moment, they are empty in nature.
On the other hand, if you look inwards for motivation, you’ll find it to be everlasting. The depths of your inner dwelling stretch far beyond what we could ever comprehend.
If you find a deeper meaning in your running, then you begin to align with your true self. This profound alignment has no limitations. For the sake of this article, we will call it your “inner runner.”
Your outer runner creates limitations, your inner runner surpasses them.
So how do you align with your inner runner to run long distances regularly? How do you find longevity in your running?
Well, your inner journey is not as direct as your outer journey. At times it will even seem a bit paradoxical.
But know this: if you set an intention, have faith in your running, and most importantly, have faith in yourself, you will always find way. The way is through mindful running.
Isn’t that what mindful running is all about anyway? Mindful running is running with intention, it’s running with thought behind it.
So are you ready to align with your inner runner to reach extraordinarily long distances?
Are you ready to run frequent long distances throughout your lifetime?
Are you ready to find a deeper meaning for life through long distance running?
If you answered “yes”…and I hope that you did, then keep reading as I provide 10 tips to help you start your mindful running journey today.
Mindful Running Tip #1: The Path Upward Always Starts Downward
Anytime you want to improve your running, you must first go down before you can go up.
What do I mean exactly?
Well, we go through seasons to increase our endurance. We must go through winter before entering spring.
Think about it…
Don’t our bodies’ first breakdown before becoming a more enduring or faster runner?
Don’t we experience mental exhaustion so we can handle running longer the next time?
Don’t we have to overcome our negative habits like procrastination and laziness to develop new positive habits like persistence and dedication?
Remember—it takes entering into vast darkness to find a radiant light. Just like every peak is followed by a valley, you need to breakdown before you can grow.
Yes, our greatest joy, paradoxically, can be buried within our greatest struggle. There is healing in suffering, and maybe…this eternal mystery is what drives our inner runner to continue reaching further distances.
Maybe that’s why it’s difficult to transcribe our motives as long-distance runners into spoken words. That is, we get hung up on the paradox, stuck in a dualistic mindset.
So we explain our love for the distance through the outer runner. In a way, we feel communicating from the surface makes more sense.
The outer runner desires achievement and recognition for running long distances. For example, when you first become a marathon or ultra marathon runner and hang your medal on the wall. And I’m not saying this is wrong, no, not at all. However, you may find this external motivation to have a short shelf life.
As long-distance runners, for most, there’s a deeper reason why we run long distances. A reason that’s difficult to express. And it comes from within, where your inner runner resides.
There’s exceptional growth waiting on the other side of pain. It just takes persistence through the resistance. Once you move down, your only option is up.
Mindful Running Tip #2: Let Go To Move Forward
Running long distances transcends psychological boundaries. The further you reach inwardly, the further you can run outwardly. Everything in between is just smoke and mirrors.
That’s because long stretches of running weakens the ego. In other words, your guard drops at your lowest, most vulnerable state. Here is where you set your inner runner free.
So, instead of pushing forward, try to LET GO. This will help you find an alignment with your inner runner. Do this, and you may discover what you are truly running for…
And although we try to describe this occurrence in words, I don’t think you ever honestly can. It’s more of an acceptance and a knowing than an answer to a question.
The point is this: by letting go, your inner runner will lift you up…
As I like to say…
I never race against another person, nor do I race against myself, I LET GO. I eliminate the resistance from within and allow my spirit to move me forward.
Mindful Running Tip #3: Run From The Inside-Out
When we suffer from within…we gain strength, just like after long unbearable miles…we cross the finish.
If we can learn to find hope inside of suffering, we can heal from the unhealable, believe in the unbelievable, and finish the unfinishable. This goes for running and life itself.
Here’s what I can tell you from my own experience: It’s not the outward journey that brings us back to each starting line…it’s the inward journey. We run until our mind and body become one…here’s where the impossible becomes your reality.
Have you ever found such a blissful groove that you forgot you are running? Maybe five minutes went by, and you thought to yourself, “Where did I just go?”
Here’s where training transcends from a physical conquest to a spiritual journey.
Here’s what I like to say:
When I lose myself in the middle of a run, I do not know where I go, but I do know it’s a wonderful place.
Aligning with your inner runner, that is, your true self, will take you here. But it takes some level of suffering. Remember—you must go down before you go up.
You can’t receive the answers at the top of the mountain without first developing the questions in the valley below.
It takes a low to experience a high. You must struggle on race day to experience the joy of crossing the finish line.
Here’s the thing, if you run from the outside-in, the finish line is a HIGH, followed by a crash. But if you run from the inside-out, there is no crash. You transcend to a different frequency, here is where longevity in your running is born.
In this sense, going beyond yourself does not heal your wounds, but it transcends your negative experience. There’s positivity hidden in every mile, especially in the miles that hurt the most.
Mindful Running Tip #4: Run In The Present Moment
As you may know, focusing on the finish line can be detrimental to your progress. The constant build up and release process is stressful.
Though, if you adjust your focus away from the future, like the finish line, and shift to the present moment, you relieve a large amount of unnecessary suffering. No, it does not eliminate suffering as a whole. But it relieves the many stressful, and even race-ending distractions created in the mind.
Simply put, you get out of your own way, and ALLOW yourself to reach your full potential.
When you run in the present moment, the finish line vanishes and time becomes an illusion. Now every mile is the same mile, and you can run extraordinary distances.
Yet whether you are tired from steep hills or exhausted from summer heat, there will always be a degree of distress when running long distances. That’s why it’s essential to ACCEPT this suffering. By doing so, as I mentioned earlier, you are not healing your wounds, but you are transcending your experience.
Have you ever gone through a hardship in your life only to come out the other side with greater insight? Maybe you grew wiser or learned a valuable lesson only realized by going through the pain?
I know I have. Some of my greatest life lessons were learned through my biggest mistakes.
That’s why, if you accept suffering as part of the process within the present moment, you can find a deep appreciation for the perceived pain. No longer is each step a painful step to the finish line, but a NECESSARY one for maturity and growth.
And soon you not only expect and accept the suffering, but you APPRECIATE it. And if you think there’s ever a point when you become UNSTOPPABLE as a runner…it’s here. When you can appreciate the pain, what could possibly hold you back?
Now you begin to understand what mindful running is really all about. Here is where you can find a heartfelt bond with your inner runner. Here is where your inner runner comes to life, and you can do things like run multiple ultra marathons in a given year.
How do you think I ran 100 ultra distances in 5 years? It couldn’t have been to satisfy my outer runner, the majority of those runs were completed in training where there are no metals. No, instead I began to appreciate the suffering; I knew it was for a much more significant cause. Running just helped bring this to light.
Remember this: the more gratitude we express towards life, the more life directs us towards gratifying experiences. Suddenly you run more, love more, and live more. Now you’ve found a deeper meaning for long distance running that can surely last a lifetime…your lifetime…
…what a journey.
Mindful Running Tip #5: It Takes Low To Know High
I’ll never forget when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. The achievement brought enormous joy into the moment. But you know what? I struggled tremendously through training in reaching that moment.
Waking up before sunrise, cold morning after cold morning, wasn’t enjoyable. Of course I wanted to sleep in instead. Working through injury, chafing, and other painful irritations wasn’t a pleasant experience. Of course I wanted to give up.
But I had to struggle, it was a MUST. If not, how could I ever put crossing the finish line into perspective?
In a spiritual sense, this same way of thinking goes for life. How could we ever know true blissful, heavenly spiritual euphoria without first getting our hands dirty here, on earth, in physical form?
Remember—when chasing those rainbows, there will be dark clouds that get in your way. The struggle is a part of the journey.
And then I remember training for my first 100-mile ultra marathon. Running 10 ultra distances in training was an enormous struggle. It was painful walking around sore for my entire training program.
NO, limping into work wasn’t fun. NO, waking up at 1:00AM for a 100k training run in the summer heat wasn’t enjoyable. NO, lifting weights inside of saunas, overcoming self-doubt, and running while chafing didn’t put a smile on my face. Training was NO easy feat.
And the race itself was far more brutal than training. Nausea destroyed my stomach as I trembled from the cold with a pummeled pair of legs for the last 50 miles. Thunderstorms hit, and the severe chafing caused my form to shift from Chi runner to Sumo wrestler. And that’s not even discussing the mental exhaustion I experienced.
YES, of course, I wanted to quit, that’s a part of the process.
But then I crossed the finish line. And how do you think I felt?
It was unexplainable. It was one of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced.
And guess what? There was no clear path to reach the finish line. My first 100-mile ultra marathon was a mess. But does it matter? The real race is always and has always been from within…not without.
I ran through the unknown, with a blindfold on, following my intuitive compass for guidance. That’s how I achieved the impossible, that’s how I ran my first 100-mile ultra marathon.
The same uncertain thoughts of attempting the impossible were the same thoughts that ignited the flame from within. The mystery of the unthinkable was the fuel for my soul. Running became an expression of my passion for reaching beyond my perceived limitations.
And hopefully, like the wick of a candle, you can use the flame of my words to light the fire in you.
Every magnificent creation was once an unrealistic idea waiting to be born.
Mindful Running Tip# 6: Live Your Pause With Greatness
Yes, going through our most difficult struggles is a huge price to pay. But by breaking yourself down, the walls fall that contain your inner runner.
Your inner runner lives inside of unlimited potential, where possibilities are infinite and where dreams become manifested.
Sure, you can settle for GOOD and run that shorter distance, but let me ask you something, Are you willing to sacrifice your GREATNESS for a good effort?
If so, the what-if’s may lurk in the shadows of your mind. Remember—we don’t get to the end of our lives regretting our failures…we get to the end of our lives regretting never trying at all…
If you try for good, but do so with an open heart, you can only achieve greatness. That’s because you are running with purpose…the true purpose of your true self.
I once stumbled upon a quote by the respected physiologist Carl Jung, he said…
“Life is a luminous pause between two mysteries that are yet one.”
So let me ask you this: how are you living your pause?
Mindful Running Tip #7: Find A Deeper Meaning
As I’ve mentioned, the outer runner thrives on external rewards. Like personal bests, trophies, and online finishing times.
Yes, these all can be used as tools to become a better runner. But is an increase in performance all you wish to accomplish as a long distance runner?
If you are reading this, then my guess is “NO”.
Whether you want to run frequent long races or run extraordinary distances… chances are you are looking for something MORE.
That’s where the inner runner comes in. For the inner runner, it’s an inward journey. The inner runner does not know miles, but it sure knows suffering, and it also knows the joy that can come from it.
For me, running ultra distances has become much less about achievement and far more about reflecting on my life. Of course it didn’t start that way. Yet, it feels as if the further I run, and the more natural I eat and fuel, the more my running becomes a journey to travel instead of a finish line to cross.
Running longer distances outwardly is merely a reflection of how deep I am willing to dig inwardly. And every step I take outwardly, is another step I take inwardly. What a divine cause and effect.
Reaching beyond my limitations internally through contemplation has allowed me to reach beyond my limitations externally through running.
Because here’s what I can tell you from experience…If you don’t find a deeper meaning on the course of an ultra marathon…then, well, you’re not looking.
Mindful Running Tip #8: Run To Find Home
I started running ultra distances to achieve something great, and then, it led me to something much more profound. My pride transformed into gratification. It’s been a humbling experience.
When I’m running deep into an unfathomable distance, I tap into something much larger than who we are or what we are. It’s a natural flow…a flow of life, that flow is love.
For the inner runner, for the spirit, for the soul….love is home. Union, love, togetherness…this is home.
If you find love in your running, then it departs from a goal-oriented process. The more you run, the more the ego breaks down, and the more you align with your soul’s purpose.
In this sense, I don’t run numerous ultra marathons to find achievement or because I’m addicted, I run because well…
I’m home sick…
I’m only telling you from personal experience….running 200 miles wasn’t just an ultra marathon, it was a spiritual journey.
When you run with love, you fall asleep to the impossible and wake up to what’s really possible: ANYTHING you surrender to, and let naturally flow into your life.
Mindful Running Tip #9: Don’t Get Lost In The Scribble
The journey of long distance running comes with no straight lines. It’s a spiral progressive forward motion. You go upstairs and downstairs, left and right, high and low.
So let me ask you something…
How will you handle suffering? Will you try to fix the pain? Or embrace it?
No two runner’s mindful running journey will be the same. Our unique personalities and experiences allow us to view life in different perspectives…
It takes a blistering cold winter storm to see a majestic white snowy landscape. It takes a walk through the desert to feel the amazingly thirst quenching effects of a simple glass of water. And guess what? Sometimes you have to be unbearably uncomfortable to reach the finish line of your dreams.
Someone once asked me if I ever go site seeing during my race day road trips. And when I said “No”, I believe to them it was a wasted trip.
But here’s the thing, the sites I go to see are from within. If I run 100 laps around a circular course, I have the most humbling views on the planet. Not everyone may understand, but YOU are what’s truly magnificent. YOU are the miracle.
Of course, I stop and appreciate the works of others. But aren’t these external objects in our outer world a direct reflection of our internal world?
Did a great painting not come from the brush strokes of a normal human being with a great mind? The painting is just an expression of their inward experience.
Whether it’s the idea that creates an invention to make the world a better place…or worse. Everything created in our external world once started as an idea in our internal world.
Our world is our perception. So when it comes to running, what world are you creating? Are you making training harder than it needs to be? Is running hard work? Or is it the necessary resistance to grow?
Remember—life is not a straight line, it takes both zigging and zagging to achieve your goals. So set an intention to make forward progress, or you may find yourself lost in the scribble.
Accept the zig-zag of life, but stay focused on where you’re headed. No, the road won’t be straight, but it’s still a road and it’s your road…the road YOU pave. So, follow your intuitive compass. Only you know where you are headed.
Deep down…you know. You just have to stop, be silent for a moment, and listen.
Mindful Running Tip #10: Let Your Gates Down
On your path downwards, how do you shift upwards?
Well, you don’t DO anything…you ALLOW.
As you go down, you break yourself down, and allow your higher self to lift you up.
It’s like we spend the beginning of our lives developing limitations and boundaries to keep us safe, and then, we spend the rest of our life exceeding those limitations.
So in this sense, maybe our limitations aren’t a wall to break through, but a gate to let down. Because when you allow your spirit to flow freely, what limits truly exist?
Even if the sun does not rise, I will find a way because I intuitively know that in the darkest of depths hides the brightest of lights.
The more you let go, the further you run. All you have to do is step out of the way.
And these limitations, these gates you must let down, guess what? You are the one holding them up. Subconsciously afraid to be vulnerable, afraid to take a chance, a chance on your dreams, a chance on yourself.
Remember this: self-doubt is the gatekeeper to the graveyard of broken dreams. And guess what? You are the one holding up the gate. All it takes is the act of letting go. Surrender to your purpose.
Yes, let go to run a further distance…
Start Your Mindful Running Journey Here
So, where’s the best place to start your mindful running journey?
Start by running from a positive set of emotions instead of negative. Running with negativity like anger, frustration, and anticipation will not get you far.
When suffering over long distances, that is, when you are on empty, how can you fill yourself up with more negative emptiness?
It’s like looking at the concept of good and evil as light and dark, or fullness and emptiness. When we think of goodness, we think of “light”….light is wholeness. And when we think of evil, we think “darkness,”… darkness is emptiness.
Well, those who try to combat evil with more evil like violence or hatred, make no progress. How could you possibly fill emptiness with more emptiness?
That’s why the only way to turn evil into good, is with good, with more wholeness.
And isn’t that true in our running? Positive emotions like happiness, enthusiasm, and gratitude will sure transcend your suffering.
I credit my positivity to the many finish lines I’ve crossed.
Take my last 200-mile race for example. When my legs were experiencing severe pain after 100 miles, and I still had 100 miles to run, my tank was completely on empty.
In that sense, how could any empty negative emotions have helped?
Through enthusiasm, love, and gratitude I’m able to bring myself back from the dead. Even simply accepting my circumstances helped when running a single race where the sun laps you three times.
So what emotions are YOU running with?
Feel enlightenment, peace, joy, and love instead of fear, guilt, desire, and anger.
When your energy drains on race day, empty-negative emotions will only provide more emptiness. Instead, allow the fullness of positive emotions to fill you back up. That’s what will bring you back to life, that’s what will guide you across the finish line.
Final Thoughts on Mindful Running
So with that, I hope by sharing something deep within me, I was able to connect with that something deep within you. Maybe you read this to achieve something you WANT, but instead, found something you really NEED.
Through mindful running, no longer is running a goal to reach, but it becomes a flow to let live.
Remember —these perspectives come from my own experiences, my own suffering, and my own mistakes. Failure, hardships, and shortcomings are irreplaceable teachers if you let them be.
Try not to let a fear of failure stop you from running long distances. When we detach from our outer runner, our perceived failures become nothing more than lessons learned.
That’s because our inner runner knows that perceived failures are priceless opportunities to learn lessons of great value. These lessons change our running for the better…and our lives.
Sometimes we have to lose something of great worth to find appreciation in what we already have…
And sometimes…we have to lose ourselves so we can find ourselves again. Meaning, sometimes we have to let go of our outer runner to connect with our inner runner.
Running helps us mine for meaning through the often messy mountains of stress in our lives.
So look past the stress, past the limiting beliefs, and past the ego to find the EXTRAORDINARY buried deep within you. Because that YOU is real, that YOU is whole, that YOU…is the invisible human soul!
And all you have to do is let go to find it…
REMEMBER…When we suffer from within…we gain strength, just like after long unbearable miles…we cross the finish!
Thank you very much for reading and enjoy your journey into mindful running.
And if you are new to ultra running, then check out my book, The Ultramarathon Guide: A Simple Approach To Running Your First Ultramarathon. It provides a straight path with a simple to follow training program to get you across the finish line of your first ultra marathon. It’s what got me across my first one.
And if you are looking to save time, check out my other book, A Runner’s Secret: One Run Will Get IT Done. I teach you how to run ANY distance by running ONE day per week. It’s what I used to reach the 100-mile ultra marathon. I provide training programs for the 50k, 50-mile, 100k, and 100-mile distances.
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