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Until yesterday, I had never consistently ran to — or away — from something for 34 minutes at once.

Let’s be honest, the most (and fastest) I ever ran was not for fun, but for evading about-to-be-uncaged dogs in a Merida, Mexico neighborhood, during which I clocked myself on a power line pole and had to explain to the eyeglass shop employees (in my limited Spanish) that “Mis gafas están rotas. ¿Puede usted ayudarme?” and spent the rest of the trip with vision askew.

But I digress.

Yesterday, I’m still not sure that I ran “for fun.” But I ran voluntarily and I ran without stopping. Eleven minute miles sure aren’t impressive, especially not to the two kids trucking that 5K in six minute increments, but for me it was never about the time.

It was about the doing.

To show you what I mean, here’s a synopsis of my thoughts, probably not unique to any runner ever but certainly new to me:

Mile 1: Holy cow, I just did that! This isn’t so bad.

Between mile 1 and 2: Hey, all these people are passing me… doesn’t matter! Keep going, keep going.

Mile 2: Good grief that took a long time. And, holy heck I STILL HAVE 1+ MILE TO GO.

Mile 2.5: When is this going to end?! Get me out of my brain please!

Mile 3: I’m almost there? I’m almost there! Walking’s not an option, YOU’VE GOT THIS.

Right before the finish line: Get it GURL! (Yes, my inner monologue sometimes sends me texts like a teenager.)

And like a freaking gazelle, as if I was finishing the most epic race of my life, I sprinted past a handful of folks to clock in at 34:04. I placed in the 28th percentile of all females, which is to say I finished.

My feet, suddenly realizing we were done, flapped the ground like a tap dancer. Mechanically, I walked and kept walking and vaguely saw cameras flashing and bagels I couldn’t eat (because I’m vegan) and some guy handed me a tote bag.

You runners sure have a unique way of saying congratulations.

Um, where’s the yoga in all this?

Two weeks ago I simultaneously found out about and volunteered to take a coworker’s place in the Colfax 5K in Denver. The universe didn’t forget that a year ago I set an intention to run a 5K before I turned 30.

Except, I always thought I’d train for one. Last year, I actually started to until I psyched myself out as my knees began to ache and my lungs began to burn. I convinced myself I just wasn’t a “runner.”

For me, running a 5K was about overcoming the brain’s barrier of “no you can’t” when my body clearly could. I know how to find my edge and move through it on the yoga mat. On the trail? Not so much.

The turning point came this past week when several people told me to set a pace for myself that was independent of others’. In other words, forget what everyone else is doing and run your own race. (click to tweet!)

Bingo — it’s exactly what I teach to my yoga students. No judgment, no comparing, just you and your breath.

With the race looming, I had no choice to do anything but. I ran/walked in short spurts with Willow over the past week and ate an avocado the night before the race. These were things I was told are good to do if you want to be a “runner.”

Until the race kick-off at 9 a.m., I still didn’t know what I was doing in the crowd.

You are a …

If you frequently tell yourself “I’m not a … [runner, yogi/yogini, insert-what-you-think-you’re-not-here]” all it takes is one action to prove yourself wrong.

You know the excuses you have for yourself. They’re the reason why you think you’re just not flexible (at all or enough) to practice or teach yoga; the reason why you don’t just book the plane ticket and go; the reason why you give up before you start.

But then the race kicks off and you are ushered along by thousands of feet. And you keep going because those feet keep going. And suddenly, you are a runner.

You are a runner if you run. You are a yogi or yogini if you do yoga. It’s that simple.

It doesn’t matter if you finish in 544th place because it is never about the end. It is always about the process.

I finished my 5K because of three things, and you can steal them for whatever “I’m not a…” excuse you have:

  1. Find a support system. Mine was the aforementioned slipstream of fellow runners, coworkers and strangers who periodically rooted me on.
  2. Stay present. This moment, and this moment, and this moment of feet hitting pavement.
  3. Train your mind, through yoga, to listen less to the voice who says “you can’t” and pay more attention to the voice who knows you can.

After all, there is no room for self doubt in a mind that knows the only option is to keep going

Try it: Half Splits Pose, Ardha Hanumanasana

I may not have been the fastest in the 5K, but I’ll be darned if my breath wasn’t one of the smoothest and that’s something I credit 100% to my yoga practice. I rediscovered my breath on the yoga mat doing asanas like Half Splits Pose, coincidentally a great pose for us runners (yep, I said it!).

Little dogs like to stretch their little legs, too, so don’t leave out those furry four-legged running friends.

  1. Kneel on your mat with knees under your hips and hands on each hip.
  2. Step your left leg forward, planting the heel on the mat and engaging the left toes back for your face. Keep a soft bend in this knee at all times. Square your hips by drawing the left hip back and right hip slightly forward.
  3. Inhale and lengthen the tailbone down, engaging the belly button toward the spine.
  4. Exhale and hinge from your hips, leading with the chest and maintaining a long, lengthened spine. Fold forward as much as is comfortable, until you feel a deep stretch on the left hamstring. Place your palms on your left thigh, or reach your fingertips to the ground on either side of the lengthened leg.
  5. Stay for 8 to 10 deep and slow breaths, washing away discomfort with your exhales. You may find that you can hinge deeper into your fold as the leg muscles release.
  6. Inhale and lift out of the pose, drawing the left heel in and returning to kneeling. Repeat on the other side.