Last weekend I ran my first 5k, which is a HUGE deal for me!
Before I get into some of the big life lessons I learned from this incredible experience, I’m going to give you a bit of my background so you too can fully appreciate how massive of an accomplishment this was for me.
The Early Years
I’ve had challenges with walking since the very beginning. I started walking really late, at 16 months old, and have had a number of hip, knee, and foot problems ever since.
Around age 8 I was told I have flat feet and would have to wear orthotics for the rest of my life.
At age 15, I tore the meniscus in my left knee at cheerleading practice and wore a brace for the better part of the next two years.
My left hip is hyper flexible and my right hip is not, which causes all sort of problems for everything from sitting and standing to walking and running.
I was that girl in elementary school who would purposely miss the day we were running the timed mile in P.E. because kids used to make fun of the way I ran and I was always one of the last children to finish.
Fast Forward to a Year Ago
Last year I was dating a guy who was really athletic. In the year we were together he participated in a triathlon, a half-marathon, and incorporated pretty rigorous physical exercise into his daily routine.
Having not done much movement-oriented activities (besides yoga) since I quit cheerleading and dancing at 16 because my body wasn’t doing so well from Chronic Lyme Disease, watching him do these things was really intimidating for me. But as I started going deeper into my healing process, I realized that one day, I would also be able to do whatever I wanted with my body, and actually enjoy it!
In July 2013 I coached at the Anthony Robbins’ Foundation’s Global Youth Leadership Summit in San Diego, CA. While I was there, I met Stu Mittleman, ultradistance running champion, who, amongst many other feats of endurance, ran over two marathons a day for 56 consecutive days from San Diego to New York City. Talk about an inspiration!
Listening to Stu’s story reignited my belief that the human body is capable of incredible things. My running spark had been lit, but it was awhile before I decided to start making moves.
After 7 ayahuasca ceremonies, I learned a lot about where my energetic blockages were coming from and how they were causing the physical symptoms I was still experiencing, the main one being chronic muscle pain. One day, I got a random moment of inspiration so I ran for about 100 feet before I was out of breath. I decided, “I’ll do it another day.”
Over the course of the next 6 months, I began to understand this whole idea of blocked energy on an even deeper level, and was given some tools to begin cleaning out these trapped energies. Movement was one of the top things on the list. Even with all this new knowledge, I still wasn’t ready to start running.
Race Prep.. Or not.
About three weeks ago my step-mom told me that her and my step-sister were going to walk a 5k for breast cancer awareness. I figured I’d join them, so I signed us all up. When I went to go pick up my t-shirt and number, this overwhelming sense of knowing came over me, as seems to be happening fairly frequently nowadays.
There was no question: I was not walking this 5k, I was running it.
I’ve learned to just listen to these sort of messages— which I believe are coming from my higher self— no matter how illogical or irrational they may seem. I’m starting to see that these little flashes of knowing are always in my best interest, and are always there to help me expand in some way. Sometimes it’s scary to take these leaps of faith, but I’m learning to trust that they will always lead me in the direction of my highest good.
In the last few months I’ve been fairly active. I’ve been dancing and working out once a week, hiking, and have kept my daily yoga practice. But running.. That’s a whole other story.
The First Challenge
After a short moment of, “Oh hell no! I am not running that thing,” the decision was made. I would be running the 3.1 miles around Drake Park in downtown Bend, Oregon.
Besides the fact that I hadn’t prepared physically for this at all, I had another problem:
I didn’t have any running shoes.
Being a nomad, I travel pretty light. And since shoes take up a lot of room, I don’t have many. First task: find shoes. I’d told myself, that even if I can’t find running shoes, I’ll run this thing barefoot. I was that determined.
I called around to see if anyone had shoes I could borrow and found my sister-in-law had a pink and gray pair that would work perfectly. (Bonus points for the pink!)
Working Through Old Limiting Beliefs
The night before the race, I started to doubt myself. Could I really do this? What kind of toll would it take on my body? I began making up excuses in my own mind for reasons I couldn’t participate. But I’d already shared with the world via social media that I was going to do it, and ultimately, I knew that this was something I needed to do for myself. I couldn’t back out now.
In those few hours before going to sleep when I dropped into the darkness, my shadow of limiting beliefs, I began to notice some physical pain symptoms arising. I still have fairly constant muscle aches, and they began to get worse. I began to get a headache. I started feeling nauseated.
I recognized this as my emotions manifesting physically in my body, so I took some necessary steps to help clear the heavy energy that was moving in. I did some deep breathing, meditation, chanting, affirmations, and visualized myself during and after the race. After all of this I fell into a deep sleep.
I woke up the next morning, the morning of the race, feeling refreshed and ready to go.
The “Heaven Can Wait” 5k
The morning of the 5k, I woke up early, did some yoga and meditation with another short visualization of myself crossing the finish line. I visualized how I would feel that moment I took that last step. It felt amazing.
Walking into the park, we heard the announcer say that there were approximately 3500 racers, including 200 cancer survivors. Standing amongst all those men, women, and children— a number of whom had “In honor/memory of…” written on their backs— I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I have not lost anyone close to me from cancer.
Two minutes before the start, we sang the national anthem, and got into our places. Then the gun went off.
As I always say to myself before drinking ayahuasca, I thought, “Alright, let’s do this!”
The Fun Begins
At a friend’s recommendation, I started out slow, pacing myself. Even with that, within the first two minutes, my throat started burning. I had to slow down. I started walking to catch my breath. Once I did, I started running. Then the burning began again. I slowed down, I sped up.
I was brought back to first grade when my P.E. teacher taught us to breathe in our nose and out our mouth. It helped.
I continued my running-then-walking style until I reached the first water station at mile 1. I drank down a cup and a half then poured the rest into my hands and onto my face. I kept moving the whole time.
Around mile 1.5 we started up a hill. My legs were burning, my chest felt like it was ready to explode, and my head started feeling fuzzy. A blister was forming on my foot, my ankle was throbbing, and my hip was pinching. I took deep inhales and with each breath sent love to the different parts of my body where I was experiencing pain. At one point I was actually saying out loud, “I love you, thank you for all the work you’re doing. I love you.” I may have looked a bit crazy, but that’s alright ;)
By the end of mile 2, I’d managed to control my breath enough to the point where I could keep up a pretty steady jog. There were moments where I’d slow down to walk and catch my breath, but I always kept moving.
Amongst my fellow runners were women with shaved heads, two young women dressed in inflatable sumo wrestler costumes, parents pushing children in strollers, young girls wearing tutu’s, and a firefighter in full gear.
There were people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. It didn’t matter. We were all in this together. It was simply magical to be a part of a collective experience where we were all focused on the same goal!
As I reached the end I could hear the music, the celebrations, and the announcer calling out runners names as they crossed the line. Everything was hurting at this point, but I kept my feet moving forward.
I jogged the last 500 meters and as I crossed the finish line I heard the announcer call out my name, “Arianna, great job! You’re a hero to all of us!” I raised my fist in triumph.
At just under 41 minutes, I did it!!
The Life Lessons
I promised you all some life lessons, so here some of the big takeaways I received from my experience:
It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, so long as you keep moving forward.
I kept repeating this to myself like a mantra, over and over: “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, just keep moving.” Every moment I felt like stopping or cutting across the grass to get there quicker, I’d repeat it to myself. In life, when we’re moving towards our goals, there may be moment where we have to slow down for a bit. That’s perfectly ok. Just keep moving.
One step at a time. Focus on the next step.
In life, it’s valuable to know our goal and the direction we’re headed. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think about all the steps we need to take to get where we want to go, but if we just focus on our next step— each step, one in front of the other— we give ourselves the space to slow down and enjoy the current moment. There is so much to experience at any one point in time, why spend your energy being anywhere else but right here, right now?
It’s never a competition, it’s always an opportunity.
Around the second mile, I realized that even though we call it a 5k “race,” I was not competing against anyone else, or even myself. Rather, I was being given an opportunity to be fully present in my body, my mind, and my spirit. No matter how much my body was aching, my mind was telling me to stop, and my spirit was feeling like I’d never make it out alive, I embraced all of it. I accepted and appreciated each moment as it arose, not trying to make it anything other than what it was. We can expand this out into our daily lives by remembering that in every moment we have the opportunity to make a choice: What do I want to experience?
At the end of the run, as I laid in the grass on the edge of the river basking in gratitude for all the work my body had just done, I found myself thinking, “When’s the next one?!”