Running cultures

Cultural Insights — By on September 9, 2009 at 7:17 am

There are so many interesting cultures around the world, with their own traditions and ways of life, but never before have I come across an article on running cultures. Yes, a culture in which long distance running is a way of life, as much a part of the people’s heritage as their food and their music. But Turner Wright wrote an interesting feature for Vagabondish on just that topic, focusing on four truly unique cultures from around the world.

… with many nations (even third-world countries) becoming modernized as the world gets smaller, there are few remaining places on Earth where running is still a way of life, essential to survival, not thought of as fitness or a way to relieve stress after a day of TPS reports. Cultures in which running is life, deeply ingrained in the minds and hearts of natives and impossible to imagine what it would be like otherwise. But where can we find such “running cultures”?

He profiles the marathon monks of Mt. Hiei, Japan; the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon, Mexico; the Kenyans of East Africa, and the Kalahari Bushmen of southern Africa. Here is some of what he writes about the marathon monks of Japan:

The marathon monks, who live in the Enryaku Temple atop Mount Hiei, are quite possibly the greatest anomaly in Japanese society, if not the world. Few choose to live their lives according to such strict guidelines, especially when it comes to feats of physical prowess…

Wearing only straw sandals (replaced often), white robes, a staff, and hat, each marathon monk begins walking or running approximately 50 km around the mountain to return in time for meditation and the meal. This is done over 100, 700, or 1000 days, depending on how far along the initiated is in his monastic training…

In reality, meditation is nothing more than training oneself to focus entirely on the present: the breath going in and out of the lungs, the wind caressing your face, the birds chirping from a nearby tree … Running meditation is only natural, by focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and communing with nature one step at a time.

See the entire piece for more about these running cultures.

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1 Comment

  1. Turner says:

    Hey Bob, Thanks for the bounceback! If you liked that, I really recommend reading my inspiration for the story, Born to Run.

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