PREM Teachers, Staff and Students Run the Lanna Marathon!

Whenever someone asked me if I run, my clever response was always “only if I’m being chased!” Never in a million years would I have fancied myself a runner, even to this day I still find it hard to believe. It wasn’t until 2013, when I moved from my mountainous home in Pai to the beautiful campus of PREM School, that I began to take my running seriously.
In a short fives years time, I’ve learned some very valuable life lessons from taking up running, and I’d like to share a few of them with you today. Running in a race is extremely inspiring, regardless of the distance; that’s the first lesson, it’s not the distance that matters, it’s how you savour the journey. Being that I am feeling quite inspired this lazy Sunday afternoon, as I allow my body the simple pleasure to rest and repair after running 21k’s with three of my colleagues, here are some remarkable things I learned and observed during the Chiang Mai Lanna Marathon, this November the 19th, 2017.
Firstly, running, although it may seem a solitary pursuit, is the exact opposite. Running promotes interdependence through showing us how we are all connected. There were countless times this morning when I experienced the discomfort of runner’s cramps, something that I’ve never experienced before. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I’d look up and a runner in the opposite direction would be smiling at me, giving me the thumb’s up, or offering encouraging words. I can’t express enough how deeply meaningful and encouraging this was, and always right on cue, as if the other runners could read my mind, knowing that I needed a boost of encouragement. Yes, it appears that we are running as individuals, but it’s the encouragement of the whole that pushes us forward to finish with confidence. We promote such behaviour in the classroom as well; students in the IEP are encouraged to work together, they are taught that some of their best work happens not because of their solitary effort, but because of the teamwork involved.
As I approached the halfway marker, a few of my colleagues had passed me and I actually felt happy for them, this made me realise; not only can I not always win, it’s not always about winning, but I can feel genuinely happy for the success of others. These are the same altruistic principles that I teach the IEP students in our led mindfulness meditation classes, through one particular practice entitled ‘Sending Kindness’. Suddenly my cramping and all the pains involved began to lift, usually by the halfway point I’d speed up towards the finish line, not slow down, however dropping gears is exactly what I did, which was even more humbling. At this point I came to accept that I would not place anywhere close to the top ten, and I was ok with that, but through slowing my speed and enjoying the process, I noticed something very special:
The Thais have gone mad for running! There were over 4,800 people entered in the Lanna Marathon, all distances. Running in packs I witnessed families, PREM students (to my surprise!) and PREM Thai staff all joyously running together! It was quite a sight to behold. Again, I began to identify with the comfortable feeling of sympathetic joy arising as I smiled, and was smiled at, bypassing families, friends, community, and strangers all pushing me towards the finish line. We were all deeply connected and entwined through this most basic, ancient pleasure of running.
Chiang Mai and northern Thailand is a beautiful, magical place to run. If you are interested in joining any one of the many races happening in Chiang Mai, then I encourage you to do so. Please refer to JustRunlah! and Teelakow websites for complete schedules of running events around northern Thailand, and I look forward to seeing you in future events and savouring the journey together!

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