Blog Mt Oxford Odyssey Mountain Marathon: Marathon # 83

Mt Oxford Odyssey Mountain Marathon:
Marathon # 83

Canterbury, Marathon
May 19, 2018

I’d been looking forward to the Mt Oxford Odyssey mountain marathon all week. After a busy week at work, a marathon in the mountains is a perfect way to escape life’s demands. Despite Oxford only being a 50 minute drive from Christchurch, it’s like my working week has continued as I’m rushing to get to the start line. I manage to arrive just in time before race registration closes at 5.45am. It is dark and the atmosphere is subdued. As I pin my race number to my shirt, I hear murmurs of the total 3500m vertical gain over the course. There is also banter from past competitors about how this is going to be a long day (even before we cross the start line at 6am!). The pre-race brief then goes on to mention that 1 in 5 runners did not finish last year. By now, I am getting pretty strong vibes that this is no ordinary marathon. However, I’m simply happy to have made the start line – my favourite place. Now that I’m here, I can finally relax. Away from work, there is no requirement to rush. No demands to meet. No need to multi task. No one to please. I can simply focus on doing the one thing that I love – running in the outdoors. To an old fashioned “Ready, steady, go”, a small group of weekend warriors charge into the dark towards the mountains. For some this is an adventure. For others, this is an escape. The mountains welcome all.

Sunrise near the top of Mt Oxford

Within minutes, I am already living in the now. The drive to the start line is forgotten. The destination is irrelevant. I am simply absorbed in the now. The combination of the dark and technical terrain demands that my attention be nowhere but here. Any lapse from the present could result in a painful fall or ankle sprain. ‘Staying in the now’ and ‘living life in the present moment’ has been central to meditation practise for many years. For me, running has always been a form of moving meditation. Your senses become enhanced as you become more in tuned with your body. It takes a while to let go and ‘relax’ into your run. Movement becomes graceful. A connection forms between the thinking mind and the moving body. As I ascend Mt Oxford, the orange glow of the sun rise turns into gold as it spills over the horizon and the distant Canterbury plains. Life’s batteries are instantly recharged. The panoramic view takes your breath away. By looking outward, you are able to look deeper inward. As I traverse along tussock grassland and beach forest, I am lost in my thoughts. The solitude is blissful. The only sounds are of the breath, birds of the forest, and the whispering of the wind. Lost in the now, I have found my true self. Meditation is really just another way to forget life’s troubles. When I am running, I do not think of my troubles. I am focused and committed to the run. It’s as simple as one foot in front of the other. The now is therapeutic. Living the moment is medicine.

Caught up in the moment

Across rivers, along rivers, and through more pockets of beach forest, the moving meditation continues. The terrain is technical and challenging requiring your full focus and attention. There were a couple of nice touches during the run. The ‘half way to becoming an absolute legend’ congratulations note and jet plane lollies at the deserted Black Hill Hut was inspiring. The compulsory instant camera photo as proof of arrival at Wharfedale Hut was also memorable. The event certainly lived up to its reputation as arguably New Zealand’s toughest mountain marathon. The ascent out of Wharfedale Hut heading back to the finish was particularly harrowing. Unfortunately, living in the now means being present for better or for worse. Climbing Mt Oxford the second time, the scattered remnants of snow bring a realisation that conditions were actually quite favourable this year. It is scary to think that this run could have been tougher. Finally, more than 10 hours later, the moving meditation comes to an end. Although the body is exhausted, the soul is refreshed. Running is meditation in motion. Running is medicine. Join me at my next blog, Christchurch marathon, two weeks after the Mt Oxford Odyssey. Another quick turnaround!

Ascending Mt Oxford the second time

The body benefits from movement and the mind benefits from stillness.

Sakyong Mipham