Kendra and I were watching one of our geeky science/history shows the other day. This particular show was about a new theory regarding Stonehenge. The theory was that the stones were fashioned to enhance acoustics of the space rather than for the widely accepted theory that it was related to astrology or the seasons. The show explained that many traditional religions, which they believe to be similar to those found in England 4,500 years ago, use drumming as a way to break into a trancelike state. From this trance it is believed that one can communicate with the dead – or even with the gods.
The program continued by showing an experiment on brain waves under two conditions. In the first condition the participant listened to random traffic noise – in the second condition they listened to the beats of tribal drums. The brain waves were all over the place while listening to the traffic but, they seemed to calm and sync-up when listening to the simple rhythms.
Although on the surface we all give various reasons for running – I think that for most of us it’s something that we can’t necessarily explain – we just know the good feeling we get from it. Like meditation, running can cause us to be more aware of the most essential parts of being alive – our heartbeat, our breathing, our feet hitting the ground. Our brains seem to be designed to react in powerful ways to these simple rhythms.
Having just completed my first 50 miler – I would say that the most unique part of that experience was the ups and downs. As with life – it’s impossible to have a continuous experience over 50 miles. What bothered you at 6 miles is a far off memory at 20 miles. Redemption is possible – you just have to have the patience and faith that you can get back into a rhythm (having people cheer you one doesn’t hurt either).
It’s almost impossible to talk about running and not talk about rhythm. For our hard workouts and races we talk about being on “pace”. When we’re running well our legs feel like metronomes – clicking away almost automatically. The connection between running and rhythm can be extended to the rhythm of training cycles. The Tuesday night track workout – the Sunday long run – it becomes a rhythm that we don’t just feel in our bodies but rather a rhythm that shapes our lives.
The most interesting thing to me about this new theory about Stonehenge is that we need to have others around us drumming along to really feel the beat. Over the last year, which has been my best running year since college, I’ve had a lot of help and some great acoustics. I may not have spoken with any gods, but I did get to connect with life in a deeper way. Thanks to all of you who were a part of helping me find my rhythm!