by Jogyata Dallas
From memory it was the famous Czech runner Emil Zátopek – best known for winning three gold medals at the 1952 Summer Olympics – who memorably said: “If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon. If you want to talk to God, run an ultra.”
Among all the sports there are – and I’ve certainly tried so many – I have come to believe that running is the very best in numerous ways, at least the most beneficial in life training, the one that confers the maximum results in self-discovery, the one that most stretches our capacities then opens a doorway to a further beyond. It is a kind of metaphor for life itself, the outer running and the challenges from mind and body a proving ground for the development of a resolute spirit, for self-belief and determination, for courage in tackling great challenges. Running confronts us with our limitations, then teaches us how to transcend them and to explore and grow beyond.
There is a deep spiritual aspect to running as well, one often referred to by the great Indian meditation master Sri Chinmoy. Unique among spiritual teachers in his focus on physical perfection, he saw all of life as a quest for happiness, leaving behind suffering, limitations, and ignorance in a striving towards self-discovery, the blossoming of our many undiscovered capacities, the great enlightenment as to our true nature. He saw running as akin to a family picnic where body, mind, heart and soul – the members of our ‘family’ – all get joy from running.
And it’s so true! Out on my Sunday long run in the Waitakere Ranges, or up at 6,000 feet on the Kepler in Fiordland, there is this wonderful exultation at the gift of life, gratitude for the panoramic beauty of the earth and the joy of well-being, the body and mind’s pleasure in adventure and freedom, the unburdening physical remoteness from the usual things of life.
For many runners their sport prepares them well for life, illumining them about their strengths and frailties and teaching them how to dare, to find courage and self-belief. The great ultra runner Scott Jurek comments: “I run because overcoming the difficulties of an ultramarathon reminds me that I can overcome the difficulties of life, that overcoming difficulties was life”.
And runner Patrick Overton adds: “When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”
Sri Chinmoy astonished the world with his contribution to running, especially in reviving ultra distance races and pioneering the unimaginable with his now annual 3100 mile race, longest certified race ever. Why promote so long and arduous a race? To show the world the unlimitedness of the body and the mind when harnessed to the power of the spirit, the power of imagination, courage, daring and self-belief. “There are no limits to our capacity if we only dare to try and have faith” he writes. Commenting further he adds:
“Life and sports cannot be separated :they are one. As a matter of fact, life itself is a game. This game can be played extremely well, provided the player develops consciously or unconsciously the capacity to invoke the transcendental energy which is always manifested in action.
“The body’s capacity and the soul’s capacity, the body’s speed and the soul’s speed, go together. The outer running reminds us of something higher and deeper – the soul – which is running along Eternity’s road. Running and physical fitness help us both in our inner life of aspiration and in our outer life of activity.”
( from ‘Endless Energy: Writings on running by Sri Chinmoy’. Available only through www.meditationauckland.co.nz See the contact/inquiry form)