Experiencing Deep Play

By Mario Fraioli

Running is my chosen form of prayer, my moment of deep play.

When I lace up my running shoes and shove my ass out the door each day, it represents a choice that I’ve made. I’ve elected to move my body in a meaningful way. I could just as easily plop myself on the couch and eat all the ice cream in the freezer (and sometimes I do) but when I hit the ground running it cultivates a unique sense of freedom, accomplishment and enjoyment. Running is my most consistent ritual. It forces me to test myself on a regular basis. There’s always some element of risk involved. Running helps bring me closer to the earth and also keeps me grounded on an emotional level. It allows me some time to myself and on occasion unites me with other likeminded souls. Some days, running for hours on end can exhaust me to dangerous levels; on others, the same act will energize me like nothing else. But most of all, running forces me to live in the present moment, helps me make sense of my experience as a human being and allows me to better appreciate the world around me.

As John L. Parker wrote in Once A Runner, “Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.” Parker’s words are consistent with my own experience and I thought of them recently when I read this Maria Popova piece on Diana Ackerman’s Deep Play, which was sent to me by my friend Galen Burrell.

“In rare moments of deep play, we can lay aside our sense of self, shed time’s continuum, ignore pain, and sit quietly in the absolute present, watching the world’s ordinary miracles,” writes Ackerman. “When it happens we experience a sense of revelation and gratitude. Nothing need be thought or said. There is a way of beholding that is a form of prayer.”

This is running for me, my chosen form of prayer, my moment of deep play.

A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, writing, media and other topics that interest me. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe here.