It could have been the start scene to any trail running event.
The inflatable overhead finish gantry shifting in the morning breeze. People greeting each other, buzzing with anticipation as they pinned their race number to their shirt. A queue for both the coffee van and the portable toilets.
Everything was normal except, behind the crowd, in the middle of a cleared section of bush, was something we hadn’t seen before; a large alloy disc, gold in the centre and brown at the edges, suspended from a meticulously crafted frame of oak and jarrah.
Everyone stopped talking when the man stepped up to the gong, a mallet in each hand, and began to play. The hand-hammered circle of metal swung, back and forth, as he alternately pushed and struck it. A low hum resonated from it dimpled surface, filling the air with a vibrant tone you could feel as much as hear.
It was mesmerising.
So mesmerising it seems many of us, including me, managed to miss the instructions for the start and run the wrong way around the start flags!
The Qi Gong trail event is run in Wungong Regional Park. It’s a beautiful place, and the course takes in some of the best parts. There are views of rocky outcrops, dramatic hills, and even the coastal plain back to the city, as you run. And the abundant wildlife and lush regrowth of the bush after last year’s fire is a constant reminder of the magic of nature. It’s the perfect place to run and to help you to cultivate and balance your qi (chi); your “life energy”.
In between gasping for air and trying not to face plant into a tree, of course.
And that’s what stuck in my head as I was running. Not the thought of slamming headfirst into a marri tree, but the feeling of balance returning which many people get from a run like this.
Why does it happen? Is it physiological? Are we simply affected by the release of euphoria-inducing endorphins? Or is it psychological? Are we practicing mindfulness while running, as we focus on keeping our bodies moving forward, bringing us into the present and our thoughts away from our worries and fears? Do the repetitive sounds, the crunch of gravel, the issuing of breath from your lungs, create some sort of zen like state?
Maybe it’s all of these. Maybe it’s none. Whatever it is, whatever running does to move me towards a calm place, to create a balanced state, if only temporary; well, I am grateful for it, and I hope that I can continue to experience it for many years to come.