By Mack Robertson
My eyes are watering. The trees are a blurred tapestry of green in my peripheral. Slack-jawed and fully in the tunnel, my focus is broad as if I’m solving a Magic Eye puzzle- seeing the hidden image for the very first time. It’s a fragile and fleeting state of being. The very awareness of the spell that’s been cast upon me is often enough to break it.
This primal instinct I’ve tapped into has my conscious brain turned off and I’m relying solely on sensory input without analysis or contemplation of that input. My body is somehow adjusting to the undulating terrain of root and rock beneath my feet without thought or effort. My breath is pulsing in time with my footfall as my speed increases. By all accounts, it would seem I’m running recklessly, but the opposite is happening- I’ve never felt so in control.
The best runs I’ve ever had were the result of my absolute absorption in the moment. A focus so intense that it’s as if all my body’s resources had been repurposed towards a singular goal. Time and distance lose all meaning. This is the feeling I’m running for. I’m running to turn off my mind.
The harder we try to push these things out of the foreground of our thoughts, the more entrenched they become. Running trails, however, can be a great conduit for turning off our brains. The repetition of movement, sounds, and visuals calm our minds and cause us to slip into the trance.
One of the best ways to get ourselves to refocus our mind is to take on something challenging to us. A task difficult enough to require our attention and discourage our thoughts from wandering. The most significant moments of our lives are not the moments of comfort and relaxation. These things are, in many ways, only enjoyable due to their relationship with the difficult challenges we’ve had to overcome to enjoy them. We are our most fulfilled selves when we embrace discomfort and voluntarily test our own limits to accomplish hard things.
At our core, I believe many of us are running trails to tap into a sense of Wild that has been lost. To reawaken some deeper connection to the landscapes we live in. To find a sense of freedom that we have allowed to fall dormant within us.