Yoga of Running: Tough Mile 1

running yoga distance running, marathons
You’d think, after completing several marathons, running comes easy to me. Well, once I get going, I do enjoy it. But getting started on any run is always tough. Particularly Mile 1. I am not talking about a 1 mile sprint. Just the first mile of a long or short run. Its a tough mile!

I have stretched; sipped water and I head out the door. Reset the stopwatch; push off and go.

In about a 100 meters, I am panting! My mouth is wide open and my chest is heaving. My breathing is very labored and you could hear my gasps 20 feet away. My legs feel all wrong and my arms are like clumsy appendages. I wonder, are my lungs ok? I really cannot go on for another hour like this.

My legs feel wobbly. No pain, just completely uncoordinated. Like a toddler taking her first steps. Nothing grossly wrong. My feet are not splayed wide like a duck’s. I have the right shoes on and laces are tight. Knees don’t hurt.

My hips reluctantly and erratically swinging forward; pushing my knees ahead – seemingly uncontrollably. Hamstrings fire and decide how far my knee goes. Muscles and tendons in my calf are grudgingly lifting my ankle and projecting the foot forward. My foot is still learning how to land. Unsure where to take the load – should my ankle flex and land on the heel, or on the flat, or on the ball of my foot. Terrain is still alien and the pace, who knows. As my hips swing forward, my opposite arm is swinging back and my hands and fingers seem unsure of what to do. They are itching to do something, just not sure what.

No pain, just that odd feeling inside: this is so damn uncoordinated! So grace-less!

I just relax my shoulders and let my arms hang loosely. My hands and fingers hang lifeless. I take small steps and let my hips, knees and feet relax. I move my body like a lifeless puppet’s. I take small breaths and distract my mind. Within a few minutes my body seems to get the hang of it.

And like the thousands of times I started a run, I know in a few minutes, I will be fine. My hips will quickly learn how to swing and my quadriceps will fire at the right time, moving my knee and projecting my feet forward – smartly. Instinctively my feet will know how to land, roll forward and push off at the toes. My arms will know how to swing in perfect synch with the hips. Elbows and fingers will figure out what makes them comfortable. My neck will relax and my chin will bob. Even my shoe laces will swing in rhythm.

My lungs will adjust to being out in the cool air. Soon, I won’t notice the sigh of each breath.

The body knows how to run. I just had to stop thinking and get out of the way.

Soon, the trail below my shoes will slip away
Fuzzily and effortlessly.
Soon, the bushes will whizz by – silently.
Twirls of clouds in the sky will hover lazily,
caressing creases in my mind
wiping the stress of the day.
And very soon,
my mind will wander away
to a place far far away.

Ahhh, quiet!

The peace of running!

11 thoughts on “Yoga of Running: Tough Mile 1

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  1. Maggie:
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Glad to hear your shoulder is doing better.
    And you have the best attitude – its not about winning races, but getting out there and enjoying life!
    hey, lets go out for a run one day!

  2. Hi Arun,
    As you know, I’ve suffered from frozen shoulder for the past year, and i’ve swayed back and forth from walking and ‘running’. I agree with the ‘first mile syndrome’ – I call it my ‘old lady jog’ pace…however everything hurts, but soon it seems like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz shows up with his oil can to lube all my joints. At that point, it’s mindless – you’re right – you need to just let your body do what it instinctively knows how to move. I’ll never win any races, but I truly enjoy the sights and peace I experience during every outing.

  3. Awesome Jai, that you are training for the Marathon. Is it the Chicago Marathon? Fabulous and hope you have a good run and a personal best time!!! :-))
    and I agree, meeting other distance runners is such a thrill; there is an instant bonding between marathoners – and I love it!
    Do you listen to music when you run? I do for the 12 + miles. mainly bhajans as it keeps my mind calm and as you mentioned distracts me from the toil of running!
    And congratulations on NYC! I did not get in with the lottery – two years in a row! 😦 So I am just doing the Boston Half Marathon (Oct 7th) to keep up with the training and hoping to do London in the Spring! heh Heh!
    And many thanks for visiting!
    Wishing you the best during your much deserved ‘taper’ and in the marathon!

  4. Thanks for stopping by our blog and consequently I also found a great blog. Glad to see someone writing about running as well. I am training for a marathon (3 weeks to the race). Did 18 today. Your bit about the first mile happens to me sometimes as well. Today a funny thing happened…I was on mile 18 and was not feeling too great. was dragging my feet or so it felt like. suddenly i was joined by another runner (stranger) who was training for new york. i told her that i had done new york albeit 6 years ago and that it was a great race and that she will enjoy it. we talked for about 0.3 to 0.4 miles and i didnt even realize it. also my pace was better in the last bit. lot of this is mental and if we can train our mind to think of something else, then we’ll do better.


  5. Katie:
    Boston is a great city for running. Hope you get a chance to do more of it. And btw, as your start-out, its OK to alternately run and walk. I did that this past weekend in record high temps and humidity. 😦
    And just stick to it – it does get easy and you come to enjoy the other great benefits of running: Stress-free and good health!
    Happy Running!

  6. Ellen – Thank you. You are very kind.
    Its amazing to hear that we all go through the same trials in our running. Yet at the end of the day, there is nothing more liberating and peaceful! Yes, I hope those who are frustrated after a few minutes do hang in there and enjoy the benefits. For that alone its worth writing about!
    … and heh! you originally suggested I write on running.
    Many thanks.

  7. For someone who’s “learning” to run, this is very reassuring. It’s not just us beginners who feel out of sorts when we get start off for our run (and it reminds us to work through it, rather than giving up).


  8. Hey Arun, I love this piece on the first mile. I have the SAME experience! On every run, that first mile feels ragged, creaky, and uncoordinated. I’m not breathing well, and I don’t have any fluidity. After that mile, everything starts to feel like it’s flowing, and it feels great.

    I have sometimes wondered how many more people would become runners if they could get past that first mile and realize it gets better. I’ve had people say they can’t run 200 feet — well, neither can I, but I have run a half-marathon!

    I hope you’ll keep writing about the yoga of running and the mechanics of running–how the mental, spiritual, and physical come together in a run. This is for me the magic of running and I’m thirsty for more words about it!

    Your closing comment about the peace of running is perfect. Running keeps all the demons away. My experience, too, it that running brings quiet and peace.

    Keep running, keep writing, keep sharing your thoughts with us all! It’s inspirational…

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