There is a lot of talk in the Chi Running world about energy, flow, cotton and steel etc. These concepts come from marshall arts / yoga / eastern thinking and can be quite hard to relate to if you are grounded in western thinking. I come from a Christian perspective, but have also studied philosophy and values in the way it relates to adventure and the outdoors. Here are a few thoughts from the latter perspective.
A chat thread on Facebook in a Chi Running Group got me thinking today. Nick Constantine mentioned that he thinks there is a 3-5 year learning curve with running, where you go through an apprentice phase, craft person phase and then mastery phase. I really do agree. This talk of phases for me connected with ideas discussed in 'The Adventure Alternative' by Colin Mortlock, where he discusses
levels of Adventure. In one such level of adventure, one experiences a sense of mastery and 'flow' where the energy in your body is at harmony with the energy around you / of the universe / whatever you want to call it! In discussion, Colin very much links this with the yoga understanding of energy centres and flow.
For me, running is most certainly a form of adventure and so I can see clear links here between adventurous running and flow of energy. I had a very powerful 'flow' experience in August 2012. I walked/ran up Liathach at more or less the pace I would if I was racing. I got from sea level to 3000ft in just under 1 hour and encountered this wonderful view surrounding me on all sides.
The whole of the northern highlands were on show. I hadn't had such a fantastic view of the Highlands in my life, and nothing even close for at least 15 years. My mind entered a trance like state and I felt as if I was floating, detached from my body.
Mortlock calls this a 'Peak Experience.' Danny Dreyer of Chi Running would probably call it. Whatever, this is a combined physical / mental / emotional and spiritual experience for me. I don't think that high adventure, or the perfect chi running session are the only ways to achieve this experience, but it is very interesting to compare and explore what these books have to say on this. If you don't believe energy flows, or just think this all sounds a bit like dodgy mumbo jumbo (!) then I suggest reading some personal accounts of adventure experiences and it is surprising how many people seem to 'connect' with their inner energy. I have heard a few real life stories from personal accounts as well as those in literature and they can be quite compelling even to the scientifically minded sceptic! The stories from the realm of marshall arts are also truly astonishing (but that's another blog post.) Personally I have found strong connections with the spiritual / divine side of life through outdoor experiences (again - that's another blog post.)
After carefully completing the climb / scramble of the fantastic pinnacled ridge I ran the rest of the mountain's exhilarating ridge, and then the rest of the route to the car. It was a real privilege to be fit enough to run such a fine route. If you have a little rock climbing experience then you would find the ridge of Liathach a great rocky playground. If you have done the scrambling ridges of the Lake District, then you should be able to pick your way along the ridge with care in fine weather. I make it my aim to get on to mountain ridges as often as possible, and I must agree with many guidebook authors that Liathach is one of the finest mountaineering expeditions of mainland Scotland.
If you are interested in Colin Mortlock's philosophy of adventure then this is a good place to start. Maybe I'll blog more on that in the future as well.