Where It's Really At

The sunbathers were unclothed and uncaring, but Chadwick jogged on, seemingly laid back and centered, because if he could finish a race he could discover...
January 29, 1979

Those who did not know Chadwick might have thought it bizarre that he would be running up a long hill near San Francisco, pretending he was being pulled by a locomotive. But those who knew Chadwick would understand. After all, only yesterday he had been atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, jogging in front of an unclothed audience.

Running seemed to provide Chadwick with what he had wanted for so many years—membership. He grew up in the late 1950s and early '60s in Cincinnati, often described as "a great place to raise children." At 14, Chadwick was too young to be a beatnik, and then, at 23, he was too old to be a hippie. He was in an odd time in an odd place, a condition he feared eventually would be his epitaph.

In his early 20s, Chadwick could not afford such upper-class luxuries as "dropping out," because he always had to make his car payments. So he dressed down in the style of the revolution's auxiliary, wearing his oldest clothes whenever he went to a rock concert and ripping off the Establishment by not putting enough postage on his letters.

Chadwick had long engaged in an obsessive hunt for that elusive quality called It—the latest fad, style or spiritual amusement park so frequently alluded to on automobile bumper stickers. He would think that he had found It, but then he would discover that while he was close, perhaps just a few weeks behind, It had moved on and left no forwarding address. His friends, meanwhile, had seemed quite able to keep abreast of such things. But now, at last, jogging was Chadwick's mellow trip.

Chadwick discovered the human potential movement after becoming disenchanted with what he called the "save them" groups: the ACLU, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and others. Once he had staged a fund-raiser cocktail party for a cadre of local Black Panthers, but someone had walked off with most of his silverware and his entire collection of Kennedy half dollars. But now, as a result of his assertiveness training, Chadwick would be right up front. He was also into mind control, est, bioenergetics, primal scream therapy, consciousness raising and various forms of yoga and biorhythms, to say nothing of astrology, tarot cards and numerology.

Naturally, Chadwick was delighted when he heard the news that Esalen, the headquarters of the whole spiritual head trip for the Western world, was offering an Inner Jogging course at its Big Sur facility located below Monterey, Calif. Sports long had been one of Chadwick's priorities. In fact, his wife had left him because of a World Series double play. It came in Game 2 in 1976 when Cincinnati's Dave Concepcion snared a liner and turned it into a twin killing. The first replay was on the TV when Chadwick's wife came into the room. They were having troubles anyway, ever since she had discovered psycho-karate and had become more demanding of her own space. She said, "We have to discuss where we're at," but Chadwick did not hear her, because he was engrossed in Concepcion's catch. During the World Series they show about seven or eight replays from every possible camera angle, and by the last one his wife had walked out of the room and out of the house. Chadwick never saw her again.

Chadwick loved instant replays. At times he wished he could video-record his life and play it back after editing out the bad parts. His trouble was that he was a practice player. He had trouble completing anything. That was even his trouble in jogging. Filled with trepidation, he had entered several races, but had never completed one. Something always happened: a stitch, a wrong turn, an injury. Once a shoelace came untied; he had stooped to tie it and an overweight woman plowed into him and almost broke his leg.

Still Chadwick was a competent runner, save for his fear of racing. It was possible that he was in the sport for all the wrong reasons. For him, running provided cocktail-party conversation, the way tennis elbow and low blood sugar once had. And it also appealed to an almost manic desire he had. He liked passing runners during his workouts, holding his breath as he went by to make them think he was running at an effortless pace. He liked it even more if his victims were young and had long hair. Chadwick used to wear his hair long, but since it had thinned, he maintained that the shorter styles were in vogue. And whenever someone passed him during a run, Chadwick would stop, as if he had just finished his planned distance, even if he were in the middle of a forest.

Still, the thing that really troubled Chadwick was his inability to race well. And that was why he was hurrying through the San Francisco airport this Friday morning, rushing to catch his plane for the weekend at Esalen, because he believed that if he could just learn to complete a race, somehow he might be able to complete his life.

The Esalen seminar would be conducted by Mike Spino, a New Jersey native who grew up looking across the Hudson River at what could be seen of New York City. After attending Syracuse University, where he had been on the track team, Spino had gravitated to the West Coast. He had been teaching school in San Francisco and edging cautiously into the whirlpool of adult life when he met Michael Murphy, the founder of Esalen. Murphy was interested in physical as well as spiritual fitness. After training runs, the pair talked about Eastern religion, meditation and about running evolving into a type of yoga—"a higher form of sport," as Murphy called it. He urged Spino to develop a program that would incorporate the mystical aspects of Esalen. Spino did just that, and in 1974 he was named sports director of the Esalen Sports Center.

Since then, Spino has become a full-time running coach and gives seminars around the country. He has written three books and is currently writing another, The Mike Spino Mind/Body Running Program, on what he terms the mental and physical aspects of running, a program that combines meditation and mental imagery with the more traditional forms of instruction.

Chadwick was sure he could get behind such a program. After all, Murphy, who is now 48 years old, can run a mile in under five minutes.

As he settled into his seat on the plane, Chadwick wanted nothing more than to sleep. Although he lived in what he liked to call The Big Apple, he was on the West Coast for business and he had been dashing about all morning on appointments and, as a consequence, had missed the plane he had originally planned to take. Chadwick had met Spino at a seminar, which was how he had learned about the Esalen course. As he plopped down and turned toward the passenger alongside him, Chadwick was shocked to see that it was Mike Spino.

"This is really coincidental," Chadwick said. He wondered if Spino could smell the bacon on his breath.

"I'd say it's psychic," said Spino.

Chadwick felt like biting his tongue. Coincidental was so passè, so middle class.

During the plane ride, Chadwick checked out the man who would be his running instructor. He had been a bit concerned about karma and the type of clothing to bring to the institute, finally deciding against tie-dyed gauze shirts and sandals in favor of more contemporary garb. He noted with relief that Spino was wearing a blue velvet sport coat with the collar turned up—the style currently favored by male models in New York City newspaper ads—flannel slacks, a print shirt with the collar open, a gold necklace and loafers. He also carried a Gucci briefcase. When Spino turned aside to look out the window, Chadwick surreptitiously turned up his own jacket collar.

Chadwick was getting good vibes. He believed in giving off positive energy and felt that most people liked him, although, for some reason, dogs did not. Only a week ago his car had broken down in Tennessee and, while a mechanic fixed it, Chadwick had decided to get himself centered by taking a run down a desolate country road. After a short distance a German shepherd had come after him, barking wildly, and Chadwick had clambered up a tree, where he perched for more than an hour. Finally a local farmer drove by, heard Chadwick's cries and grabbed the dog, a creature which looked decidedly arthritic and half blind, although he had all his teeth.

"He musta thought you was S-caped," said the farmer.

Escape was what Chadwick was really after, of course, and as he and Spino drove their rented car down the coast from Monterey to Big Sur, he mused that this would be the weekend he found it. He planned to be back in San Francisco for a seven-mile race on Sunday. He would be infused with his new knowledge, and he was certain that he could finish the race. After all, at the Monterey airport Spino had pointed to the license plate of their car. The first three letters were ESP.

At Esalen, Chadwick was stunned as he and Spino walked across the lawn. The institute sits on a plateau in the side of a large hill overlooking the Pacific. It was a clear, bright day. The sky was light blue, the ocean was a shade darker, and Chadwick could hear the surf pounding against the black, rocky coast below. Esalen may be the prettiest place in the world, a remarkable combination of peace and power. But that was not what Chadwick first noticed, for lying around the pool and here and there on the surrounding grass was a group of people, none of them wearing anything but beatific smiles. Chadwick was blown away by his inhibitions.

After registering at the front desk—where his American Express credit card was gladly accepted—Chadwick walked around the building to the dining hall to get a cup of coffee and to sort out where his feelings were coming from. Then he scurried outside to take his luggage up to his room, trying to keep his eyes straight ahead. He wished he were wearing his mirrored sunglasses.

At Esalen students are put into dorms with roommates sharing similar interests. Thus someone studying Energy and Awareness does not wind up with someone from the Getting Your Act Together class. In the room, which he thought of as Early Motel, Chadwick changed into his running gear. One of his jogging roommates came in and introduced himself as Larry, and Chadwick asked Larry if he would like to join Spino and him on an afternoon run. But Larry said he was on his way to the baths, an area of hot tubs located several hundred yards down the hill from the main building. "It's where I get it together," said Larry.

The tubs, as Chadwick would discover, are one of the big attractions at Esalen. They are filled with steaming sulfurous water from natural springs above the bathhouse. People sit in the tubs for hours, their skin reddening like giant lobsters boiling, contemplating the vast Pacific before them. No one wears any clothes there, either, said Larry.

Then Larry asked if Chadwick had heard what type of drills the group would encounter during the seminar. "I don't want to go anaerobic," he said.

At the heart of Spino's training program is the notion that most runners are working out incorrectly, dutifully doing their miles at the same pace on a flat, monotonous surface such as that found at local high school tracks. He advocates training on hills, running different distances at alternating paces and doing occasional short speed work, as well as utilizing certain "mind games" he teaches his students.

"I experience more when I run," he had told Chadwick. "I know myself when I run. I've found the way to prepare myself, to have a more meaningful experience. I give people the opportunity for a spiritual experience. That's a kind of power, power in the Carlos Castaneda sense. Imagine being an athletic sorcerer. What if Carlos Castaneda could run the marathon?"

Before leaving the room to join Spino, Chadwick checked his running shoes to make sure they were dirty enough. He did not want to appear to be a novice. It reminded him of his early 20s when he would buy a pair of jeans, then bleach and wash them for hours, artfully snip little holes in the fabric and rub on some dirt. It was hard being a quasi-hippie who worked.

That had been a contradiction, but then much of what Chadwick did now was a contradiction. During his pseudohippie stint, he had belonged to a country club in Cincinnati, where an outraged member once spit on a long-haired youth who had the temerity to enter the locker room, and where another member once accused Chadwick of not believing in the American Dream. Chadwick was more a realist than an idealist. An idealist would have resigned from the country club. A realist stayed because he liked to play golf.

Later that evening, as he walked into the meeting room for the first session of Inner Jogging, Chadwick was feeling mellow. His run had been satisfactory, and after returning from the workout he had gone down to the baths. It had been almost sunset, with the air as cool as mint and the sky beginning to go jagged with vivid shards of purple and orange. He had slipped into a tub already occupied by a girl. Chadwick didn't feel like introducing himself. He found it hard enough introducing himself to people who had their clothes on.

"It's a lovely sunset," she said.

"I wouldn't know," Chadwick blurted. "This is the first time that I've been here."

While he mentally thrashed himself for such an inane statement, another fellow came along and sat on the side of the tub. Apparently he and the girl both worked at the institute. Their conversation indicated that she designed clothes. An ironic touch, thought Chadwick, considering the circumstances. The girl spoke of a recently completed vest.

"It's polyester, but it looks just like crepe de Chine," she said.

"I can't get behind synthetics," said her co-worker.

Spino was already in the meeting room when Chadwick entered. The instructor was now wearing a gauze shirt, slacks and sandals. He sat cross-legged on the floor and explained the workshop goals while Chadwick checked out the other 20 or so members of the group. He was not surprised that only three of them, two coaches and one athlete from a nearby college, appeared to be serious runners. Spino had said that most of the students picked the course at random from the Esalen catalog; most had only a cursory interest in sports.

Spino gives his clinics to diverse groups of students, many of whom have a history of cholesterol loading. He recently signed for a series of seminars at Sea Pines, a resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Spino is able to mingle with most groups. With businessmen he looks like Beau Brummell; at Esalen he looks like Ravi Shankar.

Chadwick could see that many of the people in the room apparently were singles like himself, although there was one married couple in their middle 40s. Chadwick spotted Larry, his roommate. Earlier that evening they had sat together at dinner. It turned out that Larry was an editor who worked at a research lab that had helped develop the neutron bomb. Also at the dinner table was a fellow whom Chadwick thought of as the Prophet of Doom because of his dire prognostications. This man was an anthropologist and, like most of them, he thought man's destiny was worse than his history.

"How long do you think we have?" he asked at one point. Chadwick looked down at his vegetarian meal. There was still quite a bit on his plate.

"I don't know," someone answered.

"I give it until 1987-88," said the Prophet. "Then it's all over."

The conversation had moved on to other things, including religion, arms control, fakery, parapsychology, Alice in Wonderland, amyl nitrate, Edward Teller and magic mushrooms. The Prophet of Doom was interested that Larry worked with nuclear scientists.

"How is the morale at the plant?" he asked.

"Well, the janitors and the handymen are pretty good," Larry said. "The scientists are fairly disgruntled."

That is how it is with big companies, thought Chadwick. He once had worked for a large corporation. One day he walked into his office to discover that his desk was missing. He thought he had been replaced either with a computer or by a computer. He never found out which. Now Chadwick worked for himself, selling commercial life insurance, and he was trying to be laid back.

Chadwick tuned in to Spino's introductory talk again. "We're going to work on becoming much more conscious when we run so that we're able to observe our minds," Spino was saying. "Your workouts will become sort of a running meditation. There has been a lot of research done in other countries, especially Russia, on using the mind in sport. Basically, we'll give you three modules: running, flexibility and mental. We'll teach you different gaits and breathing techniques, give you some exercises for stretching and show you how to look at your mind and work with it."

Spino is a handsome man with dark curly hair, a smooth, untroubled face and a lithe body tuned by endless miles of running. His teachings, he told the class, were influenced by two renowned coaches: Hungary's Mihaly Igloi, whom he studied under a decade ago, and Percy Cerutty of Australia, whom Spino thinks of as the "first mystical athletic coach." Cerutty was the Jack LaLanne of his country; he lifted weights in store windows and ran 100 miles in 24 hours at the age of 50. He coached Herb Elliott in 1958 when the 19-year-old future Olympic 1,500-meter champion broke the world mile record in a stunning 3:54.5. Until he died in 1975 at the age of 80, Cerutty taught his runners to mimic the style and gaits of animals, even to bare their teeth and snarl. He claimed the locked elbow of Western athletes was the symbol of lack of creativity. Spino's dream is to incorporate the teachings and research of Igloi and Cerutty with his own and to open a training center where serious athletes can work out 12 months a year.

Meanwhile, Chadwick was focusing in on a pretty girl with frizzy blonde hair. She caught him staring at her. He quickly looked away and, in the style of people when they are caught gaping, suddenly looked back in her direction, this time training his eyes on the wall above her head. He sat like this for several minutes, wondering how long he would have to keep his head turned sideways. He was getting a definite crick in his neck.

Spino asked someone to turn off the light. He was going to take the group through a meditation. This produced anxiety in Chadwick, who never had become proficient at meditating. He never found a mantra he could get behind. Spino's voice took on a droning, caressing quality. He wanted the students to go back as far as they could in their minds and to remember their first athletic experience. After a few minutes, Chad-wick's fears intensified. His stomach was giving off rumbling sounds from all of those vegetables at dinner. In the silent room it sounded like an 18-wheeler gearing down for a hill. Presently he became aware of another sound. Someone was snoring. He opened his eyes just enough so that he could see through his lashes. It was the older man who was with his wife. She gave him a sharp jab with her elbow.

Next the members of the class discussed their meditations. One woman recalled how she had practiced to be a cheerleader in high school. The night before the tryout she worked long and hard on her spins and jumps. The following day, however, she was so sore she could hardly move. She felt humiliated. It was one of her last dalliances with sport. Chadwick talked of a similar troubling episode. He had recently parked his bike outside a Manhattan office building, chaining it to a stand and taking his front wheel with him. When he had returned 10 minutes later, his bicycle was gone. He stood there, holding his front wheel. "I felt like Peter Sellers," he said.

The next morning, at Saturday breakfast, Chadwick asked Larry how things had gone down for him the previous evening. After the meditation the group had discussed the particular feelings they had uncovered. It was a kind of Think and Tell. When the class had been dismissed, Chadwick noticed that Larry had hung around to talk to one of the female students, and about 15 minutes later he came into their dorm room, grabbed a couple of towels and said he was going to the baths.

The following morning Larry was less than ebullient. "We didn't really contact," he lamented.

He said that they were carrying on what he perceived to be a deep discussion while sitting in one of the tubs, when he got up to get a towel. When he came back, the girl was sleeping.

"I knew she wasn't interested," said Larry. "When I was younger I made a fool of myself chasing after girls who weren't interested. Now I can tell which ones are interested. And it's not ESP, either. It's experience."

Because of space limitations at Esalen, Spino teaches the actual running part of the program on a 100-yard section of lawn sandwiched between the institute's main building and the swimming pool, which is at the edge of the cliff. After supervising stretching and limbering up, Spino took the class through various paces. He also told them to accelerate from one pace to another by drawing in a deep breath, then letting it out in a rush while emitting a sharp "ping!", a technique he referred to as "surging." For Chadwick, already burdened with the language of about 30 self-improvement courses, it was difficult to keep straight the various phrases such as "fresh swing," "shuffle" and "good swing." All this input was confusing him.

The night before, while the girl with the frizzy blonde hair had discussed her meditation, Chadwick had nicknamed her the Iron Maiden because she talked about "being a really strong person" and working 50 to 60 hours a week. She said she liked challenges and was very competitive. Chadwick had the habit of giving people nicknames. His CR group said it meant he did not have to deal with them as real persons. And now, after a few trips up and down the grassy strip, Chadwick noticed that the Iron Maiden was frazzled as well as frizzy.

"My gestalt is that you have to take deep breaths," he told her, bouncing a shade higher during his own stride.

The class moved into other areas. Spino teaches the students to imagine that their bodies are filled with helium and are very light, and to barely open their eyes when they run, a technique he calls "soft eyes." One overweight and middle-aged man had trouble with this exercise. Lumbering down the strip, his soft eyes missed seeing an uneven spot and he slipped and fell, scraping the side of a leg. He acted out his frustration by letting out a yell.

Another teaching aid Spino employs is telling the students to feel an imaginary hand in the small of their back. The hand is pushing them forward. He also has them throw out an imaginary rope and lasso a tree, then pull themselves toward the tree. He admits that much of this is too esoteric for many people; to assimilate them he suggests his students think of the ideas as coming from high school gym teachers instead of gurus.

One of the more controversial of Spino's techniques is something one might call "energy exchange." He has the students pair off, facing one another. One holds out his hands, palms up, and the other puts his hands over them, palms down. Then they move their hands back and forth, "trapping" the energy between them. When they feel they have enough energy collected, one of them gathers it up, places it in the small of the back of the other and sends him off on a sprint down the grassy strip. At the lunch break, the Iron Maiden complained that she did not get anything out of the exercise.

"My partner had such low energy," she said. "I'm a high-energy person. So she took all of mine and didn't give me any back. That's why I'm so tired."

"Yeah, that happens," agreed Chad-wick, deciding to be supportive instead of right up front. He really wondered if the true reason for the girl's physical distress might be that she never before had jogged half a mile. "I'm a high-energy person, too," he said.

Just then the Prophet of Doom joined them. It seemed he had a friend at Esalen trying to heal himself from disease. The Prophet did not believe in doctors or test tubes. "At 70, when they tell you you're terminal," the Prophet said, "it gives you a great amount of freedom. Because in your 70s you're terminal anyway."

"That's the cosmic overview," agreed Chadwick.

During the afternoon session, the class worked on "tidal breathing." "Imagine that you are riding the crest of a wave as you exhale," Spino said. "Breathe in as the wave builds, out as it crests. Ride the wave. Go with the wave. Let it flow." Then they moved on to mystical things. Many people have talked about how running alters their mental attitude, that after about six miles they reach a changed state of consciousness where their bodies feel very light and efficient. Spino's idea is that by meditating before you run, you can reach this altered state at the beginning of a workout.

The class met on the patio outside the dining hall. Much of Chadwick's attention was diverted toward the swimming pool, where the sunbathers were out in force. Maybe it was a special class the institute offered, he thought. Spino's words snapped him back. Spino was asking the students to close their eyes and to begin counting their breaths. Then he had them stand up and concentrate their eyes on a spot near their feet.

"Focus your mind inward," Spino said.

Chadwick's mind was like a recalcitrant umbrella caught in a high wind. It would not go inside out. It kept returning to the swimming pool.

The group edged across the patio single file like fitful sleepwalkers, inching forward, then stopping. Slowly they moved down a short set of steps to the grassy running area. Chadwick noticed that people without clothes on were also lying about on the lawn. Maybe they were grad students in sunbathing. He focused inward again.

The idea was to run a complete circuit around the lawn: straight down a slight incline, past a large pine tree until you came to a vegetable garden, then toward the ocean for about 30 yards—careful not to continue off the cliff—next back up the hill and past the swimming pool, all the time considering the thoughts in your mind. If your concentration was broken, you were supposed to stop, get yourself centered, then start again.

Since meditating was not his thing, Chadwick decided to get into a macho trip. Instead of stopping, he would just keep jogging farther than anyone else. Maybe the Iron Maiden would notice. He was on about his fourth circuit when he first heard it, but he did not believe it. He decided to listen carefully the next time around.

"Hup, two, three, four," said a girl lying on a towel on the grass. "Hup, two, three, four." It was the same chant onlookers mocked him with whenever he ran in Central Park.

That evening, after the class had viewed several films, one of which showed Cerutty illustrating the disadvantages of the bent elbow, Chadwick headed down to the baths. He had to drive to San Francisco that night for his race the next morning and thought it might be cool to relax and rap a little. No one was around except a man and a woman sitting in a tub. The man was staring soulfully into the woman's eyes.

"This is the one spot, the one place in the world where I feel like my inner self is at peace," he said.

"Oh, really?" she answered.

Chadwick fidgeted before the start of the race, trying to stay mellow. It was Sunday morning. The event was being held in Woodside, on the peninsula below San Francisco. It had been organized by a group of pro football players. As everyone milled around before the start, Chadwick got high on all the energy. He felt some good vibes, like he had just watched a great instant replay.

But a mile or so into the race, the feeling had left. Chadwick felt drained, ready to quit. He was either running at a "good swing" or a "fast shuffle"—he could not remember which. Suddenly he became aware of a huffing sound. Directly in front of him was a large man of the dimensions appropriate for pro football. His breaths were exploding in bursts. Chadwick thought that the big man sounded just like a locomotive.

He decided to hook up with him. He imagined a large hand in his back pushing him along, with the locomotive in front pulling him. He started to get into it. His body felt lighter. The theme from Rocky started playing in his head. He liked the space he was getting into.

When it was all over, Chadwick slumped against a car. The finish had come quicker than he had expected. Suddenly it was there. Chadwick half-expected something awful to happen. He thought of that dog in Tennessee. But he had made it. Easily, in fact. Then he went off to organize his feelings.

He had completed his first race. The first day of the rest of his life. He was really together. He finally had found something he truly could get behind.

Then he noticed a girl standing nearby dressed in a red, white and blue outfit that included knee pads. She was on roller skates. The girl told Chadwick that she had roller-skated the entire race.

"It's a new space I'm in," she said. "Roller skating is the latest thing. Disco-skating, skating to work. It's like what's really happening."

"Oh, really," said Chadwick. "I didn't know...."

ILLUSTRATION ILLUSTRATIONThe World Series replay was on television and, before he knew it, Chadwick's marriage was off. ILLUSTRATIONRun meditatingly, the instructor said, and observe your mind. But Chadwick's mind was wandering. ILLUSTRATIONFor optimum running, bare your teeth and snarl.
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)