Week 8: Firecracker 5k
My first race! And the FIRECRACKER, no less!
I crossed that finish line today, in spite of a burn on my inner thigh (wardrobe mishap on my run yesterday), in spite of my mental reaction when I saw how steep the hills were (untrained on hills), and in spite of this being a sorest and low-energy time of my month (ladies you know)...
I never thought of entering a race before November. I'm not a natural runner. I think my body is built more for sitting on a horse, and running has always been a huge challenge for me. PE was my most feared class throughout school. I was always on the slower side. I had mild asthma as a kid and still sound like a bronchial disaster when I run more than 4 miles, even when the rest of my body can take it.
In January, when I committed to running the Firecracker as my first race, I wanted to dive into the 10k. However, the Firecracker, which is a 5k and 10k event, as well as a bike race, is hilly, and my lungs aren't in a condition yet to handle 6 miles on hills with no walking.
So I signed up for the 5k, and I thought it was going to be easy. I run 3x a week, usually around the Rose Bowl, and my minimum is always a 5k.
The race totally kicks my butt. The hills and my body's current energetic low push me to almost walking, and during the race I'm happy to finish in anything under 30 minutes.
I finish at 26:20. I'm sure my eyes are as delirious as my legs when, heading towards the finish line, I see the timer just beginning minute 26. Yes, I wish I could run an 8 minute mile or less. Yes, I wish I had more stamina today. Yes, I wish I wasn't so painfully aware of my body after mile 1.
But I am so proud of myself for committing to this and staying with it, such that I average an 8:28 mile in spite of everything, physical and mental. There are times when it's important to abide by the physical limitations to the body and there are times when the body knows, feels, a steep challenge...and is still willing and wanting to accept it. The former is why I didn't attempt a 10k, and the latter is why I stuck with running a no-break 5k. And then went to an hour of heated power yoga.
This brings me to an important point: what we train for is what we perform. I never could 'fall back' on a 26:20 5k if I didn't run that distance, and more, several times a week.
Physically: if we want to run fast, we train fast; if we want to run long, we train long.
Mentally: if we want to focus, we practice focus amidst distraction.
Emotionally: if we want to be flush with joy or peace, we practice leaning into it, and still choose to exercise that choice when we are given circumstances we can easily frame as victimizing.
Spiritually: if we want to master meditation, we are lifelong students.
Movement is my #1 way of getting out of my head and into my body. The mind can be a wonderful place to be connected with when it's in service to the heart. My mind runs the show more than I'd like, and I know my life is meant to be centered on heart work, so movement has helped me connect to the innate wisdom of the body, which is very attuned to the heart.
I'm not a natural runner, but I run. It helps me feel empowered. In the challenge of it, all the fluff evaporates and I come face-to-face with the deeper layers of what's truly upsetting me in life. When I see results, I know they're not because of talent, as other things might be, but because of effort I have chosen.
And, although I owe all my capacity for this race to the foundation of my constant, informal practice...running an official race is different. Today, I feel like I went through a running rite of passage. Seeing the finish line is a game-changer, and crossing it is glorious. The ceremony around the race is also beautiful - both in terms of the celebration of the Chinese culture and in terms of celebrating the human body and what it can do.
I also joined the Pasadena Pacers - a free running group in the city I'm living in right now - two weeks ago, and feel so grateful for the support of such an inspirational and motivated team. I drove to the Rose Bowl at 7 a.m. on a cold (for California) Saturday morning two weeks ago, expecting to see maybe 10 people gathered, and found at least 100 people hopping up and down in warm-ups for their respective runs.
Being part of the group is still new to me, but I love it, and I never thought I could ever like anything that involved being somewhere at 7 a.m. on Saturday. There are several sub-groups within the Pacers, from Walkers to Ultra-Marathoners (one day...), and ALL of them are so encouraging.
Having support in a challenge is like nothing else - and the best part is that for one run a week, the long one, I get to be like a herd animal, waiting for the pacing signals (the group I joined trains on a 5:1 minute run:walk schedule) from the group leader and not thinking too much, haha! I always thought of running as an individual sport, but it doesn't have to be.
If you participate in an activity that has supportive groups, I highly recommend joining one. And if you are able to, entering a competition can be a blessing: it doesn't have to be about winning or losing, it can also be an invitation for personal growth.
And remember, even at your lowest and most incapable, even at your darkest hour, just by virtue of the presence of the human spirit, nothing can strip you of your potential...your firecracker soul. Nothing.
Have a sizzling week! (#cheesy #notsorry)