GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

Running retreats with a focus on meditation and yoga continue to grow in popularity, as a way to reduce stress and learn new skills in natural settings. (Courtesy photo)
Running retreats with a focus on meditation and yoga continue to grow in popularity, as a way to reduce stress and learn new skills in natural settings. (Courtesy photo)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Editor’s note: Erie journalist/runner Matt Hart will speak about his new book, “Win at All Costs,” on Aug. 5 at In Motion Running, 1880 30th St. This story has been updated to correct the event date.

One of the special spots in Colorado — and there are many — is the Shambhala Mountain Center northwest of Fort Collins, near Red Feather Lakes. It is 600 acres of aspen and pine-laden hillsides nestled next to national forestland. There are endless trails and dirt roads to run nearby, as well as a variety of retreats to attend, including Labor Day weekend’s “Running with the Mind of Meditation,” which I first went to back in 2005.

The Shambhala Mountain Center has reopened after the 2020 Cameron Peak Fire and is back hosting contemplative retreats, including “Running with the Mind of Meditation” on Labor Day weekend. (Marty Kibiloski / Courtesy photo)

That first exposure to meditation and mindfulness was transformational, and so, like many others, I watched updates last year when the Cameron Peak Fire swept through the area, burning more than a dozen buildings on the center’s land on its way to becoming the first Colorado wildfire to burn more than 200,000 acres. Saved from destruction was the iconic Great Stupa of Dharmakaya Which Liberates Upon Seeing, which is a must-see Colorado visit.

Now, after a long closure, the Shambhala Mountain Center has reopened and is back hosting retreats. I’ll be returning to help facilitate this year’s “Running with the Mind of Meditation,” (shambhalamountain.org) which has become a yearly highlight, a chance to reset at the interface between the end of summer and start of fall, a time to look ahead and ground and become centered. After the pandemic shutdown, is this not needed more than ever?

You are likely asking, as I first did when the late Daily Camera sports editor Dan Creedon assigned a story asking me to write about the Boulder spiritual leader and marathoner Sakyong Mipham’s Boston Marathon debut, (Mipham is the author of the best-selling “Running with the Mind of Meditation”) what does meditation have to do with running?

Plenty, it turns out, a connection that once grasped can inform our lives and keep us from ending up as one of Henry David Thoreau’s “mass of men living lives of quiet desperation.” My take, and what I’ll try and pass along at the retreat, is that “mindful running” involves a change in mindset to where you pay attention to yourself, your body, breathing, thoughts, attitudes, emotions and feelings, while running and in life. It is noticing what is going on in the moment and not trying to “run away” from sensations when they become uncomfortable. Key is that much of it makes us uncomfortable or dissatisfied, and causes anxiety — the Sanskrit term is “duhkha” — that is below our conscious level, in the unconscious or subconscious. Tap into that and you have a powerful ally.

Of course, such descriptions and theory can often be, as Hamlet says, just “Words, words, words.” A nice concrete example to illustrate this attitude is Boulder’s Olympic marathon gold medalist Frank Shorter, who was a mindful runner before there was a term for it. An anecdote I like, which is told well in Erie journalist/runner Matt Hart’s new book “Win at All Costs,” (about Nike’s culture of elite running / ByMattHart.com), centers on the 30 minutes before the start of the 1976 Montreal Olympic marathon. Hart will speak about his book Aug. 5 at In Motion Running, 1880 30th St.

Shorter, a Boulder resident since 1973, was the defending gold medalist and had been tapped by upstart new shoe company Nike as the runner to carry on the mantle held by Steve Prefontaine, Shorter’s friend and occasional training partner who died in a 1974 car accident. Nike made a special pair of racing flats for Shorter to wear in the marathon. Shorter, as was his wont, warmed up in his training shoes, then, in the enclosed warm-up area, laced up his new Nikes. Ooops. The glue did not hold; the sole separated from the uppers. While his competitors were led into the Olympic stadium, Shorter was left in the warm-up area. The race was ready to start. He was not there and had no shoes. Surely an occasion for “duhkha.”

What to do? Did Shorter panic, get anxious, scream, yell or throw his hands to the heavens, saying, “Oh, woe is me.” No, not at all. He remained calm and, as he’s explained, had a sense that somehow it would work out. Here was the “mind of meditation” in action. And it did work out, because in the lead-up to race day, Shorter had asked a friend in Boulder to ship a backup pair of his Asics racing flats to Montreal. The box arrived at the Olympic village with “good luck” wishes from custom officials written across it, as Hart writes.

However, the shoes were back in his room, on the other side of a high fence and too far away to run and get. As Hart writes, Shorter spotted a U.S. race walking coach who happened to be a suitemate. The coach ran off, returned with the spare shoes and tossed them over the fence. Shorter laced them up and ran into the stadium and the marathon started with only a few minutes to spare. Just over 2 hours, 10 minutes later, he had his second Olympic medal.

Was this all a matter of coincidence and good luck? Or did years of mindful running increase Shorter’s ability to not only deal with stress, but to tap into his unconscious and somehow use it to become better, faster, smarter and stronger? There is much more to the story that I’ll be sharing during “Running with the Mind of Meditation,” along with these simple takeaways:

  • Approach training your mind as you do training your body.
  • Make meditation a habit, just as you do with running. A little bit each day goes a long way.
  • Stay consistent; don’t overdo either meditation or running.
  • Notice what arises, breathe deeply, and smile.

Follow Michael Sandrock on Instagram: @MikeSandrock.