In addition to my regular yoga practice, I like to run.
I’m not competitive about it at all. There’s no pressure. I don’t care if I run faster or slower from one day to the next.
I just like to run.
Sometimes Robert and I run together. He belongs to a local running club and this weekend they had a 10k race in Brielle.
Robert asked if I was up for it and I said, sure.
I’d done six miles before and if I needed to, I could always walk.
It’s a hilly 10k, Robert warned.
Hills. Big deal.
I can do it, I assured him.
It was chilly in the morning, so I wore sweatpants and a long t-shirt.
When we got to the event, most people were wearing close to nothing. The little they had on looked like high-priced running gear.
These people are taking this way too seriously, I thought. This isn’t an Olympic tryout; it’s a race in Brielle. But, whatevs.
A guy we met in the parking lot is in the same club as Robert. Robert introduced us and shared that this was my first race.
The guy laughed. Loudly.
You’re doing a hilly 10k for your first race?
More loud laughter.
Good luck, he giggled as we walked away.
I know it’s an unyogic thing to do, but I couldn’t help but compare these people to the yogis I’m used to spending time with.
Any time I’ve gone to an unfamiliar yoga studio and tried a new pose, the people around me have encouraged me and offered to help until I got it.
No one has ever suggested I couldn’t do something. It just isn’t done in a yoga studio. If you want to do it, you will do it. And others want you to do it and will help you do it.
Yogis are not perfect people and maybe it’s different in different studios. But, in my experience, yoga studios are places where we’re all lifted up and no one is torn down.
That’s the way yogis roll.
This is just different, I told myself. In yoga, we want to see each other succeed. At this race, people see each other as competition.
The race was about to begin and Robert said we should stay in the back and let the more serious runners be in the front.
A handicap for us, I thought. More to run and hardly fair, but OK. We’ll start in the back.
I feel claustrophobic with so many people around me. I want my space and wish I can elbow everyone in their over-priced clothes away from me.
The race begins and we all start to run. I start my ipod to make it an internal experience, the way I normally do.
The first hill is right in the beginning of the race and I take it pretty quickly. I think to myself I should pace myself. There will be six miles of hills to get through. But I have energy and I want to run fast, so I keep going.
I pass a bunch of people and think about the dick who laughed at me. Fuck you, ignorant asshole, I thought. I’m a yogi. Did you think a couple of hills would be too much for me?
What can’t I do?
I know. Way unyogic. The definition of a yogi is someone who can withstand insult and injury. So I’m not there yet. At least I’m self-aware.
I keep running and passing people and thinking I should probably slow down to have the steam to finish. But I’ve never been able to control my pace.
My body tells me what to do. When it wants to run fast, I run fast. When it needs to slow down, I slow down. Maybe it’s my yoga training: don’t do what others do; listen to your own body.
The “runners” might not see the wisdom, but it works for me.
More running and more hills and at a certain point I hit a particularly steep, unfriendly hill.
My bravado takes a hit as my lungs struggle to get my body up the steepest part.
This is not cool, I tell the hill.
I make it up the hill and think I must be close to the end of the race.
I soon cross a marker on the road that lets me know I’m at mile three.
It’s OK, I think. I can make it.
People are standing on the side of the road offering water.
At the beginning of the race I didn’t think it made sense to stop for water, but now I’d do anything to wet my parched throat.
I grab water a few times and pin down a strategy for drinking it without stopping.
I bring the bouncing cup up to my face and throw some in the direction of my open mouth.
Brilliant, I think, as I toss the cup in the garbage can.
I continue to run at my own pace and eventually get across the finish line.
I’d run six hilly miles in 54 minutes, 10 seconds. That’s eight minute, 43 second miles. Out of 109 women, I was 33rd.
I could live with it, I thought, especially for not having taken it anywhere nearly as seriously as the other people.
At the end when they were giving out awards Robert pointed out a man who’s a “legend” in the local racing community.
He’d run this race years ago at a little more than 30 minutes.
You wouldn’t know it to look at him.
In his fifties, he has a pot belly, a worn face and a slack body.
He’s had to have hip surgery because of overtraining and can’t race anymore.
I’d rather never win and have a strong body at 50 than win every race and be worn out at his age.
We stayed for a little fair going on in Brielle and saw the dickwad again.
He recognized me and looked a little stunned. I guess he was expecting me to be dead or something.
He asked how I did.
I told him I ran the race and felt fine as I walked away.
Because that’s the way we yogis roll.