For many people, running a 42K marathon is just a pipe dream. Never an athlete myself, growing up I shied away from any form of sports. I would find all sorts of excuses to escape from sports activities in schools as I don’t believe I can shine in sports. I was the uninspiring girl who just lives my life in the realms of school textbooks and my life priority was to get the paper qualification that my parents dreamt of. On the contrary, my siblings were just the polar opposites of me. They were actively pursuing Taekwondo and Tang soo do championships at district level, winning medals and trophies. My lifestyle pale in comparison and to make matters worse, I immersed myself wholly in my workplace.
The turning point of my mundane life was the very moment I received a pair of running shoes as a gift. The shoes were too expensive for me to keep them in a dark corner collecting cobwebs, and so I decided to pick up running and set small achievable goals for myself. I started my training plan; running thrice a week, clocking 2.4k and gradually running 10% distance more per week with the aim of hitting 10K. It was not a great start, I couldn’t get my running tempo and I got tired easily. My breathing was all over the place; I can’t even remember if I was breathing through my nose or my mouth, most time gasping for air. Crossing 5K was such a tough feat then. The only thing I got it right was chanting “you-can-do-it” mantra in my mind; somehow, these repetitive words miraculously propel me further and I hit 10K FINALLY. The adrenaline rush was indescribable and it got me all excited to take part in my very first 10K competitive race. My race timing was good for a race newbie.
My confidence and willpower grew; I became fearless and decided to take a plunge into a full marathon. Increasing my race distance from 10K to 42K is a huge leap of faith. It is more than 4 times the distance BUT I was so naive then to estimate my running time for 42K by multiplying my 10K race time by 4! Example, if I completed 10K in 1hr10min I deduced that I would only take about 4hr40min to finish a marathon. Okay, my bad! I ended up clocking 6hr04min for my first marathon.
I learnt that no matter how slow I run, I will never be the last runner to cross the finishing line. What matters most is that I dare to take up the 42K challenge and completed it without fear. It is so easy to succumb to fatigue, cramps and mind tricks when I hit the wall. In a way, I have disciplined myself through months and long hours of training to overcome the elusive distance. It’s truly mind over matter.
I learnt that I may not be a fast learner in yoga asanas, I may not internalize difficult pose immediately and would possibly need months to get it right. What matters most is that I dare to overcome my fear of falling when I try my hands on headstands. Picking myself up each time and not quit, I give myself time to get better and better each day. I believe I will get there one day in an unexpected moment.
Parallel Life Lessons drawn from Running Marathon and Pursuing Yoga Teacher’s Training
- No dreams are too big. Dreams can be accomplished – one small step at a time. You must have a training plan, stick to the plan with consistency and discipline and believe you can do it. I learnt that months of grueling training plans leading to marathon and months of a compact yoga teacher training are necessary to achieve greater things in life. They gave me the reason to wake up early in the morning to pound the pavement or to attend YTT classes to fulfill my dreams.
- Compete less, Encourage More. I learnt that there is room at the finish line for all runners. It isn’t all about winning or losing, it’s about the experience and being in it together feeling the encouragement cheering from bystanders or competitors. Similarly, I learnt that I have classmates with different yoga skills level in YTT. It isn’t all about competing and be the first to master difficult asanas, it’s about the experience of learning together with my classmates who are open to teach and encourage one another.
- Silence is golden – Some marathoners like to listen to music while running. Music was a fundamental part of my running routine. It provides ongoing stimulus and generally leaves me feeling more positive and upbeat. I thought I did like it too – until the first time I ran without it. I was able to listen to my body and be mindful of my breathing. I developed mind-body awareness while focusing on the run. With this new-found mindfulness, my mind was able to free up to think better and evaluate my life problems. In fact, it was during these long runs, my mind invariably churns out workable solutions to resolve my problems. I have grown to love the silence; it was the same silence that resonates with me when I experienced meditation in YTT.
- Don’t start off too fast – Consistency is key – It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement on marathon race day. As a result, it is extremely tempting for me to want to start off the race by running really fast. But I told myself that I was going to take it slow at the beginning, because I knew I would need the energy later in the race. Consistent pacing is key to avoid burn-out. Similarly in yoga practice, I have also found that taking things day-to-day and consistently moving in the right direction is the best way to go. It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of practising new challenging asana; sometimes frustration sets in as I fail to get into the new pose as fast as I would like to. Practice consistently and all is coming!
Practising the Ashtanga Primary series is akin to running marathon. The practice session is as intensive as my marathon trainings and fatigue kicks in slowly. At times, I feel like giving up when my body is tired and mental is weak. I am glad I hung in there with true grit. There is always a sense of euphoria sweeping over me after each Ashtanga practice. It feels like runner’s high. I am glad I took a leap of faith in enrolling myself in YTT course. Not only did it challenge my limits, it complements my running journey: it equips me with invaluable knowledge of injury prevention, restorative practice, breathing techniques, flexibility and strength. Running marathon race and yoga practice are both invigorating to the mind and body. Every marathon race is different. So is each yoga practice, it’s always a new experience on the mat and the gradual progress is truly humbling.
Running a marathon race is not the be-all and end-all. Like yoga practice, there is constant self discovery and self learning to attune to our body which can be enlightening and empowering.
Running is very much close to my heart, so is yoga. Chanting A-U-M in my next marathon race will open new doors for me. While marathon running can take its toll on human body, incorporating yoga practice into training plan definitely can strike a good balance to my overall health wellbeing. Until then, A-U-M … A-U-M… A-U-M…
– LYCHANG (200YTT; Apr-Jun17)