Why I Think About Beavers When I Run

Last Friday I celebrated the end of the week with a happy hour… run. My run took me along the Cherry Creek trail, which ambles along a river through the heart of Denver. When I tell people that I run ultra-marathons, I get a lot of questions: How many miles do you run each week? Do you run alone? What do you think about?

To answer this last question, let me tell you what I thought about during my recent happy hour run:

    • Hear — What can I hear? How do my feet sound hitting the ground? Can I hear the birds? Hm actually I can’t hear anything except rush hour traffic… Can I distinguish between a car and a trucks? Oh shit I hear a bicycle behind me — get out the way! See, listening is good.
    • Feel — How do I feel? Tired… Why do I run again? Hungry. Get focused, Jayson. Can you feel your feet hitting the ground? Can you relax your body? Can you feel each of the muscles being used in your legs? Are you keeping your upper body stiff?
    • See — What can I see? Keep your eyes on the trail or path in front of you, but look for different colors. How many different birds can I spot? How does the sky look? Look at that graffiti!

As the book Positive Intelligence explains, focusing on your senses allows you to be mindful and increases your PQ score or positive intelligence . Some people refer to this as mindful running.

I was focusing on what my eyes were seeing as I was running along the Cherry Creek trail. Suddenly — what is that in the water? Is that a rock? No, it’s swimming. It’s a duck. Wait no, it’s furry. It’s a beaver! I stopped running and watched for a few seconds until the beaver disappeared underwater.

And with that, my run had been transformed into something else: discovery. One of nature’s powers is the ability to get you out of your head and into your soul, instantly. Think about mindful running next time you’re running—or walking. You never know what you might discover.