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After thinking a bit more about the thread with a similar title, I wanted to try and organize my thoughts a bit better with regard to my running and how I attempt to apply my Aikido training to it. This last weekend I ran as part of a 12-man team from Spokane, WA, to Sandpoint, ID. Overall I didn't do that many of the miles. My longest run was 6.5 miles and the other two were about 4 each for a total of approx. 14.5 miles. So a little over a half-marathon spread out over two days.
The mind tends to wander when I'm running and it's always interesting to see where it goes. I often remember things I've forgotten; I get creative ideas; random things pop up. When trying to focus on one set of things, I'll often suddenly realize I've drifted into something completely unrelated for awhile. However, the thing with running is that eventually, you get tired and winded and your body hurts and you're thirsty and perhaps even a bit hungry...no, wait, starving because you didn't eat much while driving around Spokane supporting your other runners...for example. The point being that the body starts demanding attention in a variety of ways, and in many cases signals that it wants you to stop what you're doing because, dammit, it's hard on its parts. It's a great practice for working on discipline of the mind and body both, being very much a whole-body activity. For these challenging reasons I've come to really value it as a supplement to my meager Aikido training.
One of the things that I've been taught in Aikido is that it is crucial to consider your hara into your movement and posture and it was during my final run that I felt I was best able to hold my center in mind most consistently. Cross-lateral reaching about/with the hara combined with deep breathing kept my posture a bit fuller, and more relaxed. The mental imaging I used most was to imagine something like a string and pulley system where moving my right hand, by way of a silver thread sliding through my body, moves my left foot. The hands make circular movements like small sword raises (one is raising while the other cutting; I tend to focus on the raising part because I get more of a sense of lightness which equates to less impact on the feet, knees, and hips...the hips being the most crucial for me because once they're tight all sorts of painful things start to happen) and to help shift how my upper body accumulates/generates tension and absorbs some of the impact from my foot strikes, I change the angle of the raising/cutting motion. This helps keep my upper back, shoulders, and neck from getting too tight, which tends to happen otherwise. An added mental imaging tool I used is to feel like I'm polishing my somewhat stable/still hara with the movements of my hands and elbows. This adds a layer of my sense of center which seems to help balance the cross-lateral relationship between my hands/arms and feet/legs about my center of gravity. In other words, it seems to help reconcile the opposing rotations of the upper and lower body.
One interesting facet to this year's runs was my decision to run wearing a camel pack. I found the straps in the front changed the dynamic of my upper body, essentially causing me to tighten my chest and arms. Normally I try to remember to run from my back, imagining it is a wind pushing on it which propels me forward. So I actively relaxed my chest and shoulders and began pushing into my backpack with my back. It didn't work at first, but at one moment after "resetting" my effort, I could feel my whole (more or less) back pressing into it. I felt strong and relaxed. I felt really good: balanced; perpetual motion-like. In retrospect I realize I soon forgot what I was doing and didn't really focus on this again much. Putting ki into my back has been a way that seems to really help my movement, being that the front tends to get too much as a matter of habit.
Anyhow, I'm tired and running out of steam for this. Time to sleep and polish my thinking more later.