Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wanderlust 108

Last weekend, I did something I honestly thought I'd never do - I ran a 5k. Without stopping. And then I sat in a park and meditated for 20 minutes with about 500 other people. And THEN I did some yoga. In the rain.

The yoga part was not all that personally surprising. I've spent many a happy (and sweaty) afternoon in my nearby yoga studio, and I've been known to join a friend for some impromptu yoga in a park on good-weather days. The meditation wasn't too much of a stretch for me either. Years of Catholic schooling have taught me to sit un-self-consciously with my eyes closed and think deep thoughts in the middle of a public place. And really, who doesn't want to sit quietly while listening to live cello music as a cool wind gently blows?

Photo by John Suhar
But the running? THAT was hard. For me, at least. I know a ton of people that can run three miles backwards up a hill with their eyes closed and not break a sweat, but as I've mentioned before, I am not a runner. But back in July, one interwebinal click led to another and then another and then ultimately landed me on the main website for Wanderlust, a company that specializes in and promotes yoga, meditation, and mindfulness by hosting teacher trainings, yoga classes, and multi-day festivals. It was that last one that caught my eye - beautiful pictures of beautiful yogis tree posing on mountain tops and rugged oceanic coasts were everywhere. I wanted to go to there. I knew myself well enough to realize that I'm too cheap uncoordinated busy to attend one of the three-day festivals, but when I discovered they were hosting a one-day mini festival in Brooklyn, I started to seriously consider going. I mentioned this thought to my friend Kristen, who said that another friend of hers had also expressed interest. A few frantic group texts later and we had ourselves three premium tickets, allowing us to participate in the first-ever Mindfulness Triathlon - a 5k run, seated meditation, and group yoga.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was really worried about the running part of the day. Sometimes I run a few blocks for exercise, and on a good day I can do a mile on a treadmill if I'm at a gym, but previous to this festival the farthest I had ever run was about two miles, and that was three years ago on a treadmill in Connecticut when I was having some serious boy troubles (angry running is still running). So I'm also not ashamed to admit that I trained for the 5k. Like, for reals trained. I first thought that I could just follow one of the popular Couch to 5k training programs, but quickly realized they were designed for people to work up to the full three miles over the course of a few months. I had less than a month to figure this out. So I created my own running schedule that increased my distance from 1 to 2.5 miles and then back down to 1 mile (tapering) over the course of three weeks.

And you know what? I stuck to my schedule. There were two or three days that I didn't run as intended, but by and large I kept to my program - and it absolutely one hundred per cent paid off. The actual 5k was hard - I was unfamiliar with the course, so all of my usual benchmarks weren't there to tell me how much farther I had, and the last mile was almost entirely uphill. But thanks to my Type A, competitive, determined, over-achieving Aries self, I did it. I ran the entire way, stoping only once for three deep breaths when I thought my chest was going to cave in (it didn't).

I'm not going to lie. I felt so good afterwards. Not in the physical sense (because in the physical sense, I kinda wanted to die. Or at least sit down and sleep for a very, very long time) but in the emotional sense. Or maybe even in the spiritual sense. Something to do with pride? I guess I don't often do things that are so challenging that I impress myself, but this one resonated with me. I think it's because running is very black and white - you either run, or you don't - and unlike my creative and professional lives that are almost always full of grey areas, it was easy to acknowledge my pure achievement. I set out to run an entire 5k, and I did.

The rest of the "triathalon" unfortunately kind of paled in comparison to the run. The meditation was good, but I wasn't in love with most of the keynote speakers, and it started to rain about five minutes into the yoga portion of the day. I might have been able to get behind what quickly turned into water-robics, but the instructor was a bit too preachy for my liking, and besides that, I was freezing. The three of us quietly packed up our mats and bags and slipped out during a sun (rain?) salutation, and headed toward the car. As shouts of "peace! peace! peace!" quietly faded into the background, all I could think was "hey! I did that!"

Photo by John Suhar

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