Top ten ways to become a better runner and a better person. Simultaneously.

Top ten ways to become a better runner and a better person. Simultaneously.

via http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/09/10-spiritual-lessons-from-running-barefoot-angela-raines/

1.  Get naked. Big, padded, expensive running shoes often cause more problems than they solve.  We run best when we let our bodies operate in as natural a condition as possible.  It’s all too often that we let our remedies become our maladies.  Starting from a more natural, authentic place is usually the best way to go, in your exercise routine, love life, or spiritual pursuits.
2.  Have fun. The Tarahumara, a tribe of legendary ultramarathoners, smile huge during the hardest parts of the race. We all do our best when we’re having fun. Notice and nurture what you enjoy, and pour a little whimsy into the hardest parts of your day.
3.  Get devotional: The Hopi and Navajo do ritual running as a prayer to give their own strength to those in need. What greatness could you achieve if you were devoting yourself to something greater, if you weren’t doing it all for your own ego?
4.  Get compassionate: While marathoners are often cutthroat, ultramarathoners, who run four times that distance, are shockingly generous, often helping eachother along the way. We seem to actually perform better when we’re cooperatively, not combatively, competitive. Compassion is far better fuel than greed.
5.  Get egalitarian:  While men trounce us ladies in sprints, longer distances completely equalize this difference. Aging also impacts distance running far less than it does most other sports. According to the theory that we evolved in running packs, it was important that women and elders kept up with the group on a hunt. Elders were given particular respect since they had the know-how to track animals, something that takes the better part of a lifetime to master. We post-moderns cherish the ideal of equality and respect for all — isn’t it stunning to consider that this respect might be an ancient birthright, that even helped us survive as a species?
6.  Speak your mind: Communication was essential between members of the hunting pack to ensure they were tracking the right animal. Our ability to relate to each other is nothing without our willingness to communicate. What can you contribute to your tribe by speaking up?
7.  Get imaginative:  There comes a point in tracking an animal, McDougall claims, where following isn’t enough, and you must begin anticipating its next move. This need for anticipation might well have led to our greatest gift of all, imagination. Our ability to look across a plain and envision a city, our ability to listen to silence and hear poetry, is what makes us quintessentially human. This capacity drives all creativity, and propels us into an ever more complex future. Celebrate your imagination, and use it wisely.
8. Get free: It’s awfully hard to run long distances weighted down by physical possessions — or emotional baggage, for that matter. Running light is the way to go, for your finish time and your soul.
9.  Get Zen: Jenn Shelton, one of Born to Run’s most colorful characters, explains why she started running ultramarathons:
I thought, man, if you could run 100 miles, you’d be in this Zen state. You’d be the f@#king Buddha. Bringing peace and a smile to the world. In my case, it didn’t work.  I’m the same old punk ass as ever. But there’s always this hope that it’ll turn you into the person you want to be. You know, like a better, more peaceful person. And when I’m out on a long run, the only thing in life that matters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn’t going ‘bleh bleh bleh bleh.’ Everything just quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow.
I’ve found a certain clarity during runs when I can get myself to stop resisting the pain and just be. It’s raw and real and just as meditative as anything I’ve experienced in a zendo [meditation hall].

10.  Get fearless: We’ve developped a strange phobia about running over the last few decades that McDougall finds preposterous. Running, he claims, “gets the machine operating the way it should be. End the baloney, the hysteria about running, that it’s dangerous — ‘Don’t do too much! Don’t take your shoes off!’ — Regain the use of your legs, get the engine off the block and running how it should be, and your whole bodymind will run more smoothly.” I don’t kow about you, but I make my biggest mistakes when I let fear paralyze or hypnotize me, and I’m at my best when I’m living courageously, heart at full throttle.

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