as Siddhartha Gautama sat beneath the Bodhi Tree his internal demons incarnated as Mara tested him one last time. in his flagrant ego's penultimate assault Mara slashed at Siddhartha taunting: "who do you think you are: the Enlightened One? you're nothing, no one, you're a fraud. who do you think you are to lead the people out of samsara? give up now, Siddhartha, before you look stupid in front of the people. you've come all this way and you are nothing but a failure."
Siddhartha, shaking with the depth of this attack from within, made the most powerful gesture he could muster: he touched the earth. by touching the earth he called upon the feminine wisdom of the body that carries us all to witness his goodness and the purity of his intention. he touched the earth so he might feel less alone, less diminished, more humbly powerful; so he could contact his inner wisdom and vanquish this final and most cutting of Mara's attempts to block his path to enlightenment.
with this eloquent gesture Mara slunk away, defeated, and Siddhartha became the enlightened one we know as the Buddha.
this is why I run. when I run I, too, feel my Maras of self-doubt populate my thoughts and threaten to derail me on my own flawed path to enlightenment. my ego, too, goads me, making me feel unworthy, like an imposter of an athlete and spiritual seeker. but each time my foot caresses the earth I imagine that as I move I am Siddhartha, nearly enlightened, sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree in reflection. each footfall calls on the supreme mother to witness me, to acknowledge my inherent goodness, to ground my spinning mind in the presence and supreme reality of being rooted in the earth.
in this way mountain running, speed climbing, and ski mountaineering are all foot prostrations leading me on my spiralling path toward enlightenment.