Introduction to Running Home

The earth seemed almost to move with me. I was running now, and a fresh rhythm entered my body. No longer conscious of my movement I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamt existed.
Roger Bannister, The Four-Minute Mile

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first human to run a mile in under four minutes—an accomplishment as groundbreaking as the first landing on the moon. Yet the quotation above is not, as one might think, from the height of Roger Bannister’s record-breaking career. It does not describe that first, illustrious sub-four-minute mile. It is not the peak experience of a highly trained athlete. It is a memory from his childhood: the experience of a young bo so filled with the beauty of the beach surrounding him that he ran for joy—and discovered the majesty of running.

This experience is available to all of us, and certainly to those who give themselves to running. For when we give ourselves to running, we give ourselves to the very best that life has to offer.

As I have run over the last 15 years, I have discovered deepening layers of tranquility: a new stillness, an expanded sense of freedom, and a peace and joy previously unknown to me. In these moments, I feel “on,” in the zone. I am connected with the environment around me. Not just to it, but as a part of it. I cease to be a spectator of my surroundings and become immersed in them. I am able to think more clearly and creatively, and problem solve faster. I find myself more open to the miracle of inspiration than ever before. In this way, running has become a moving meditation for me, and the doorway to a new, more spiritual approach to life.

For many years, this wonderful experience during running was a refuge that I could turn to at any time. When things weren’t going well in other areas of my life, I could always find shelter in running. I ran my way out of both drug and alcohol addiction.

Yet while running was an incredible sanctuary, it remained just that: somewhere outside of the rest of my life that I would retreat to—a beautiful, peaceful, and private island that I visited as many times as I could each week. There was running, and then there was the rest of my life.

As the miles rolled by, I would think, “If only I could feel like this for a larger part of each day. If only I could take this feeling into the rest of my life, into my job, and into my relationships with my family and friends.” While the calming and uplifting effects of my run might last into the late morning, by the afternoon they would be crowded out by the business of living. Then, for the rest of the day, I would either be daydreaming about that morning’s run, or about where I would be running the following morning.

I knew one way that I could extend my experience—by running longer. This certainly supported my marathon training! I began to run further and further in preparation, but I eventually had to concede that there was a limit to how far I would be able to run each day and have any other life! For the majority of runners, even competing professional athletes, the fact is we are not running for 22 or 23 hours out of each 24. For most of us, most of the time, we run between one and two hours a day. The answer, it seemed, was to somehow remove the protective barrier I had placed between my running and the other areas of my life.

So I began taking my life into my running and bringing my running more fully into my life. My goal was to initiate a conversation between my running and the other areas of my life, so that running no longer insulated me from life, but rather propelled me toward the very best in life. I began to bring a more conscious, meditational focus to a number of my workouts each week.

This book is the result of this shift in approach. It contains 35 ways to bring this focus to your running, which can help create a seamless flow between your exercise, your passion, and your wider life. Through using the guided meditations in this book, the great majority of which have been written to be used while you run, you can focus upon and actively prepare yourself for a deepening of the energizing and uplifting experiences that running has to offer.

You may also discover that your running improves. As your present-moment awareness increases, the level of your performance and personal satisfaction will also increase. Physically, you’ll get more miles to the gallon. In other words, you’ll find that you can use less energy to cover the same distance and recover quicker from your runs. On a mental level, with increasing frequency you’ll find solutions to work and other challenges without actively thinking about them. With the help of this book, you can learn to focus not so much on looking for a solution, but on preparing a place for the solution to appear.

Running is certainly a wonderful experience in and of itself. It can be a vehicle through which to establish, nurture, and deepen our relationship with the divine inside of us. As a result of your focused and intentional running, you will feel more balanced, and for longer periods of time. Simply, and through conscious intention, you can enjoy the peace and calm of your workouts throughout your day. Beyond that, even, can be the experience not just of running, but the sensation of being run.

The aim of this book is threefold. First, to support those of you who are existing runners in building upon the levels of freedom, peace, and expansiveness that you enjoy in your running. To assist you in carrying those qualities deeper into your lives—into your relationship with yourself and others, into your workplace, and into your wider world so that it is infused with the joy and possibility you experience when running.

Second, to support both existing and new runners in bringing more into their running, by consciously preparing not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. By bringing a focused awareness to your runs, you can connect with the experience of who you truly are: not a human being with a soul, but rather a soul—a spiritual being—having a human experience.

Third, this book is here to welcome those new to running, encouraging them to embrace running as so much more than mere physical exercise. Running is not only a tool for relaxing and strengthening the body. It can also ease the mind and free the soul.

Each chapter can certainly be used more than once. The wonder of this approach to running is that the meditations will meet you wherever you are in your life. You can return to a particular meditation when it seems appropriate and experience it in a new way—because you will be coming from a new place.

Why Running Home? This book is here to support you in running home to your heart, to your dreams, and deeper into your spiritual life.

Each day as I set out on my run, I remember that the place I am headed for is the place that I am about to leave—that I am running home. It may be a 20-minute loosener or a 20-mile training run; either way my destination is home. I like to think of the soul’s journey as the same. We are all journeying home to the place we started from, the very heart of God (whatever that means for you). For some of us, the journey may be longer than others; in the end, we will all make it home.


Share in the meditational moments that come from my runs several times each week. Tweets are lasered inspirational thoughts created with the intention of getting your runs to be deeper.

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Here's my pick of favorite runs at three different distances: Marathon, 50k and 100k. These are three for your bucket list. Send me yours!

San Francisco Marathon
My favorite of the big city marathons in California. Running over the Golden Gate bridge is a gorgeous experience, and the rest of the route is varied, with a couple of testing hills and some animal surprises!

Bulldog 50k
One of the toughest 50ks out there, run in the hills and canyons above the Malibu coast, this event starts with a deceptively cool, misty dawn start, only to evolve into a testing, hot, 90+ degree trail run with 8,000 feet of elevation change over the two-loop course. Gorgeous views of the California coast and surrounding villages nestled in the mountains.

Miwok 100k
You'll need to get into the lottery in December to have a shot at a place in this most popular event. The course is famous for being runable it's entire length (for some at least!). You'll get to run with some of ultra running's biggest names along some wonderfully deserted trails along the central california coast in the Marin Headlands. This is a great event for those considering a first 100k - the aid stations and event support are unpralelled and the goody bag is something Santa would be proud to give you. Still give it the respect it deserves, with approxiamtely 10,000ft of elevation change over the 62+ miles.


“Toby Estler’s revealing and engaging personal stories illustrate that the outer journey of life is a mirror reflection of the even greater, inner journey of the Soul. A captivating read, this book will inspire you to greater physical fitness and deeper spiritual growth.”

Iyanla Vanzant, Author
One Day My Soul Just Opened Up.

And yes . . . that is me on the cover! Since publication, I have dropped 25 pounds, started running ultras, shaved the beard, and grown a head of hair! That’s one powerful book!