A few weeks ago we asked if anyone would try “running naked” (without technology) at parkrun and provide us with feedback on the experience. Our first respondents were those who do so already, and they enthusiastically shared why they love it.
“I always run naked, never with music or watches or anything. I do this because I grew up running like this. I used to race competitively and would time my breaths with my feet and could pace a mile down to the second. Now I’m not competitive anymore but I still enjoy listening to the wind and my feet while I go.” -Gaby Mai, Livonia parkrun
Juan Leg (you may remember reading about him in an earlier blog piece, found here) sent a note stating “I’m a naked runner; it’s the only way to run.” He’s a regular at Heritage Harbor parkrun in Ottawa, IL and he’s a bit of an anomaly in today’s world, having never owned or used a cell phone. Therefore, it’s no sacrifice to run without one. However he thinks the best reason to run naked is to appreciate and show common courtesy towards other runners that wouldn’t be possible with music playing through earbuds or headphones. “…we are all part of a family and we need to support our family. I got to be the runner and person I am today because I am a naked runner; I would hear people cheering me on and cheering builds confidence and confidence gives you strength.” he wrote.
Lexie Orvin parkruns naked at Roosevelt Island in Washington, D.C. She finds value in being present in the moment and sometimes vulnerable both as a runner and in her career as a musician.
“It feels better to be as present as possible, for myself and for the other people running there. Connection with other people isn’t automatic but I find joy in simple interactions. Even if I happen to have headphones, I like to take one earphone out when I pass people (either direction). I might say something to them as well as give them the courtesy of knowing I can actually hear them too rather than just nod and smile vaguely. It does take effort, but not too much, to connect with other folks on a run. And I can still go as fast (or slow) as I need to that day.
I understand that music/audio books can definitely keep people going when the “going gets tough.” I also understand that going unplugged can seem a bit scary if you are not used to it. As an amateur athlete as well as musician, I have learned a few things about being present, unplugged and vulnerable.
As a young athlete, my coach quickly pointed out that my mental game was my downfall. That was tough. But I knew I couldn’t just plug in to tunes to pump me up and expect my negative mindset to work itself out. I had to practice facing the mental noise too (and still do). As a young musician, I remember having a fabulous breakthrough when, rather than put up a wall and pretend the audience wasn’t there, I chose to be present, vulnerable, and trust in my training. I remember also thinking of a quote, “seek to express, not to impress”. The connection with the audience was energizing.
It is worth it to step into that not-so-silent world where people might wave at you or offer a criticism or an affirmation, or where your untrained thoughts might take you on a roller-coaster of positive and negative extremes. It is an unsettling place. But you can learn a lot there–especially about how powerful your mental game is to the whole experience. And also about the simple energy that can come when you learn how to set your rhythm and push your pace without feeling the need to block everyone else out. “
Have you been inspired to try running naked? While everyone is encouraged to participate in parkrun in any way they wish, we hope you’ll try it and find it as rewarding as these parkrunners do.
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