Long Walks On Leafy Streets

10/29/2017 Fenton Street, Takoma Park, MD.
Marathon, Part I.

Just came back from meditation. As always, it was a very pleasant as well as uplifting experience. A good friend, neighbor and fellow mindfulness practitioner Neal gave a ride. Neal has a very calm and unassuming presence and I always enjoy talking to him. His daughter Sequoia was born just a couple of months before Prashant and so as usual we chatted about the children. It was a cool autumn evening with a steady rain and we enjoyed the embrace of the wind as we walked to the Vihara. It was good to go to meditation after two weeks. Last Sunday was the Marine Corps Marathon. We had a good meditation and during the discussion I talked about how the Marathon this year had been a great lesson and experience in mindfulness and in just enjoying the moment. It had helped me, momentarily at least, overcome my ego and feel liberated from worries, plans, fantasies and frustrations and just enjoy the moment.

On the Sunday before the Marathon I did the “bell inviting.” It is the bell inviter’s function to set up the meditation room and maintain a mindful atmosphere throughout the meditation and the discussion afterwards. And so it provided a great practice in not thinking about one’s own problems or worrying about how one is doing but rather focusing completely on one’s duty and on making sure everything goes smoothly. Fellow Sangha members Patrick, Jude and Marvin helped me in setting up and I was full of gratitude for their support. When one feels gratitude the heart softens a little bit and the ego loses a bit of its power. It also happened to be great preparation for the Marathon.

I was looking forward to the Marathon. Just before the day of the race Nicole told me how it looked like this was Christmas Eve for me and she might have been right. At various points during the months of long training runs one questions the purpose of all this. No matter how much one enjoys running there are always moments when it is a bit more difficult than usual. Once you finish the training and enter into the last week or two before the race and start “tapering” –reducing the workload gradually -- you really start relaxing and the excitement and anticipation really begins to build up. It had been a good training year. My legs were getting stronger, I was running faster and never missed a training run. There were no serious muscle strains or injuries either. Overall everything was looking good and building confidence towards a much faster race this year. During the last two months as the runs got longer the mind had started settling into a rhythm as well, developing calmness and the ability to overcome adversity and to keep going with a positive attitude. Nevertheless, having a positive attitude every moment doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of ego. As the strength and confidence increased, so did feelings of power and superiority and I had to constantly remind myself that these were just temporary and that I could stay humble no matter what.

Anyway, everything was going according to plan. Ran four miles on Thursday at a good fast pace. All I had to do was to relax, eat lot of carbohydrates the next few days and sleep well. But as they say, man proposes but God disposes. God had different plans for me. Nicole had to go to a work related event in Philadelphia on Thursday. She stayed over with her mother that night and so I had to take care of Prashant that night. He had been suffering from a mild cold. He kept waking up that night and so I could not sleep well. On Friday I felt weak and sleepy during the afternoon. Nevertheless I enjoyed going out that evening and taking a break from work and family because Nicole usually picks up Prashant on Friday evenings. I did feel a little light-headed and my appetite was not normal. I thought that was just Friday evening fatigue.

On Saturday morning I woke up with a clearly itchy throat. Although everything felt fine during the three mile run that morning just after the run I got this feeling that you have when you know there is a virus in your body and it is just not as strong as it usually is. I also found out to my shock that I had lost a pound or two in the previous days. This was of great concern because you were actually supposed to gain a few pounds on the days before the race. One does run faster when there is less weight to carry around but I had thrown away my original plans to lose weight because I had read that it was important to have as much carbohydrates in reserve as possible just before the Marathon. I was indeed hoping to gain weight. (To be continued...)

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