by Sal Citarella
At the risk of sounding like a mystic, a flake or worse, I’d like to relate an incident that occurred to me once while running. I can only present it as a classic “out-of-body” experience, and ask that you at least accept that I believe it.
This occurred many years ago. I have related it to a few, most of whom listened politely, not rejecting the possibility, but not concurring in the experience, either.
It was in California when I was younger, two elements that I believe are important to the experience. Running was a joy: a conducive environment and the strength that comes with a still strong, trained body. I was going up a significant hill to a park, maybe 45 minutes from home, and well into it. At the top of the hill, with a history I never came to know, was a large wooden cross. (Don’t read anything into the cross, I’m not claiming divine intervention.) The hill wound up and around, so that I could look back at where I had been. There was no traffic or distractions of any kind.
As I ran, I became aware that “I” was no longer within my body. I clearly knew that I was somewhere above watching myself. “I” was awareness; my body continued only as a functioning, living thing, important to me, but not “me.” The best analogy I can provide would be that of operating a device by remote control. I was monitoring the runner, observing body temperature, heart rate, level of effort to ensure all remained within normal parameters, but I felt none of the stress or fatigue of the body. I was in charge, but I was not working up the hill.
I don’t know how long the sensation lasted, but I suspect that once I became aware of it, my rational mind had to question it and this probably led to its end, somewhat like knowing you are dreaming, and therefore waking yourself in the process.
Whether this occurred before or after I became familiar with the literature of near-death experiences, wherein the soul or the intellect is said to hover over the doctors and the distressed body, I can’t honestly say. I don’t think I was influenced at the time by such accounts.
I’ve had similar experiences since, but none so clear as the one above. Most often it was more a high degree of dissociation, in which the body seemed to be on autopilot. I believe this is fairly common among well-trained runners.
If anyone else has had a distinct out-of-body experience and would admit to it, I think we runners would like to hear. Maybe, as Fox would say, “The truth is out there.”
Editor’s Note: I can relate to Sal’s experience. Let us know if you’ve had similar experiences. Sal has explained the feeling exquisitely. Let’s hear yours…