Continuing the A- Z Feature Friday series on Running Department’s 6th Birthday.
A for Andrew
B for Boon
C for Cindy
And today, we have D for David !
When I first got to know David, they said he’s the mindfulness guru. I envisioned him to look and talk a little like the Ancient One from Doctor Strange. Thankfully, he’s far from peculiar, and chatting with him was totally comfortable. 🙂
Thank you David for taking the time out from the picturesque Swiss Alps holiday to answer some of our questions.
We have tonnes of definitions and explanations of the concept mindfulness. But what is mindfulness to you and how has it helped you?
To be mindful is to be fully aware and focused: aware of what is going on outside and inside of ourselves, and fully focused wherever we choose to place our attention. When I’m mindful, I can be more aware of my thoughts, feelings, what I’m doing, and the potential consequences. With these insights, I can try to make daily decisions with more wisdom and compassion. That’s how mindfulness has helped me. It makes me feel more alive, live more purposefully, and happily 🙂
On mindfulness and running, what got you started to incorporate mindfulness into running?
I didn’t intentionally set out to combine the two. However, they’re highly complementary and go hand-in-hand. For example, when we’re running socially in a group at RD training runs, we can practice being mindful of managing a safe space between us and other runners as well as pedestrians. When we’re serving as a pacer in a race, we can practice being mindful of maintaining an even pace. Conversely, if we can maintain awareness of our environment and tune in to our body while we run — being more aware of our breath, our steps, our body condition and posture — instead of getting lost in thoughts, we can be more present and can train our focus and awareness.
You had once described that one of your pains is just discomfort. How do you know when your pain is just discomfort or injury ?
Haha! All runners will inevitably experience pain. Who doesn’t feel fatigued near the end of a hard race, the burn in our muscles after a hard workout, or sore muscles the day after? As runners we all learn to deal with this kind of discomfort in our own ways. However, if the sensation persists over several days, starts to affect our ability to move/run naturally, or turns into a sudden and sharp pain, then it’s most likely an injury that we should acknowledge and address immediately. Mindfulness can help us be more aware of early warning signs from our body so that we can prevent getting injured. If we do get injured, mindfulness can also give us the clarity of mind and discipline not to worsen the injury.
And now, onto UTMB… (I almost felt that I am digging out a race report from him!)
How was your preparation like?
Unfortunately my preparation for UTMB was not great. Although it’s 171km with 10,000m elevation gain, my training for it was not as robust as what I’ve done before for shorter races with less elevation. I allowed other things in my life to take priority and didn’t give my UTMB training the proper time and attention that it deserved. So, I didn’t prepare as well as I could have 🙁
Runners toeing the Start Line at UTMB, the bucket list trail race of trail enthusiasts.
What was going through your mind before the race?
In spite of toeing the start line feeling underprepared, I was at peace and wasn’t stressed or worried. I knew how I wanted to execute the race, and was ready to go! The atmosphere at the UTMB flag-off is electrifying, and I was just savoring every moment. Sad to say, I didn’t manage to complete the race to experience the equally exhilarating finish line.
Any takeaway from this race?
My takeaway from this DNF is: this whole “mind over matter” thing, and overcoming physical and mental limitations… it’s complicated… #emo
Yeah. Oh, and my other key takeaway is: the beauty of the mountains and trails around Mont Blanc is breath-taking, sublime, and humbling! #nofilter
Any advice for all the budding trail runners out there?
Don’t focus too much on the numbers (pace, distance, PBs, etc) and the destination. Just enjoy the journey, and enjoy running free. Embrace the unknown and unpredictable. Enjoy the rain, the mud, and that one more uphill climb that greets you as you reach what you thought was the summit. Run like a child again. Stop to smell the roses. Connect with mother nature. And last but not least: “Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but pictures and memories. Kill nothing but time.”
All the best for your next mountain endeavors Master Zen!
And also, I couldn’t resist saying this… #whenigrowup, I want to be like you!
We will be back again with another A-Z Feature Friday Series soon. This time, it will be E for … … … Take a guess and tell us in the comments who do you think it will be?