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Another bloody marathon

Posted by Simon Parke, 09 August 2017, 10.09am

On Sunday, I will run a marathon.

I do it for myself really, I won’t pretend altruism, which actually plays no part at all.

But due to the generosity of people like you, I hope also to raise something over £1000 for the wonderful Dementia home next door to us.

I haven’t done any particular preparation. I tend to run something over 60 miles a week, including twenty miles every Sunday morning; and this will suffice.

The human body can find the extra six miles when it needs to.

I’ve worked out a 26 mile circuit around the hills and coast line of Seaford. Unlike the London marathon, there are some quite serious climbs; and they will be the place of pain.

I will run it alone; but I won’t be lonely. My partner will run the first mile with me; my brother will cycle alongside me for five or so miles in the middle section; and my son will join me for the final six miles.

While delightful neighbours, friends and family will see me home (around 10.15am in St Peter’s Road)  and enjoy coffee, croissants and a swim in the sea afterwards.

So a very social marathon really.

But is it spiritual as well?

The running monks of Mt Hiei in Japan would say so.

They’ve achieved enlightenment by running a thousand marathons in a thousand days.

They are much revered for this and why not? It does sound impressive.

I’ve only run three.

There’s a little myth-busting to be done, of course: the thousand days do not have to be consecutive; the whole thing usually takes about seven years.

And unlike my run, the marathon does include ‘shrine-breaks’, as the runners stop to pray at various holy places along the way.

But it’s still a challenge – only a few monks have done it twice – especially in the straw sandals they wear.

And I don’t imagine they’re Nike Off-Track Ranger straw sandals…

But can we really call it enlightenment? Or to put it another way, what’s so spiritual about running?

The spiritual benefit, they’d say, lies in the constant movement which exhausts the mind, the ego and the body, until nothing is left.

‘And when you are nothing,’ says one of the monks, ‘then something, pop, comes up to fill the space.’

And this ‘something’ is the vast consciousness that lies below the surface of our lives, a sense of oneness with the universe.

As Adharanand Finn records in his book, ‘The Way of the runner’, there are moments when running when we break through our body and begin to feel light, strong,
at one with the earth.

But enlightenment, says another of the running monks, isn’t a point where everything stops and you’ve suddenly made it.

No, it is something alive, something that pushes you every day, whether you are a monk on Mount Hiei or a recruitment consultant in Horsham.

‘Something deep wants to know that place,’ says Finn, ‘to find it again, to return to it. And for some of us, it means lacing up our shoes and heading out for another

So think kindly of me on Sunday as I will think of you.

I’ll get up around 4.45am, enjoy a cup of tea (and possibly a banana), do some stretching and at 6.30am, set off.

And then it’s simply one foot in front of another.

It’s exhaustion and delight, vanity and enlightenment.

It’s still mind, empty mind, oneness.

Both grit and gift.

And just another bloody marathon…

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