When I was invited to the lululemon Run Immersion in November 2019, my relationship with running had become complex. From a hobby I’d started as an eight-year-old at Little Athletics to now trying to pursue running at an Olympic level, running had become something I viewed as a job. I’d recently moved back to Australia after living in America for five years studying and competing on an athletics scholarship at the University of Washington. A foot injury I suffered while competing overseas left me unable to run for a few months and I was feeling lost after leaving behind a big part of my life while also going through some of my darkest moments through a long string of injuries, unsure if the pain in my foot would ever go away.
It turned out, The Immersion was exactly what I needed to reignite my soul and pull myself out of the rut I’d fallen into. I experienced a lot of wow moments on The Immersion, but there were a couple in particular that will stay with me forever.
Charlie Dark, Global lululemon Run Ambassador, led us on a Mindful run, where we were instructed to leave our watches behind, line up in two single lines, and move together in silence, focusing our awareness on our breath and footsteps. After a while, we paused in the bushland and did a brief breathing exercise together before we lined up and ran again. As I focussed on the rhythm of collective footsteps hitting the earth together, and the sound of our collective breathing, I felt myself let go of all of the worries and fears I had been harbouring in my mind throughout my injury & experienced the first pain-free steps in as long as I could remember. As we stopped again for breathwork, Charlie imparted some wise and profound words to the group.
"I do not run, I push the earth down with my feet and leave my footsteps in the concrete behind me."
With tears spilling down my cheeks, I realised the significance of the moment I was experiencing. It was a short but incredibly powerful run, giving meaning to the tag line, ‘we run for more than can be measured’. I felt open and weightless, like I’d let go of the tension and trauma I’d been holding onto.
The next morning, I woke up and decided to test out my foot, picking up the pace by joining the faster session with run coach and yogi Ryan Mannix. Our morning session was 6 sets of 3-minute efforts with a 1-minute recovery.
As we ran, the sun was rising behind the mountains around us, kangaroos bounced, and our footsteps and heavy breathing broke the stillness of the morning air. I started running - kind of fast - and the pain from my foot just wasn’t there. I started sprinting, my heart pounding, with blood pumping through my body and a smile on my face from ear to ear. I remembered why I love running so much. When I fill my lungs with air and I push myself to my physical and mental limits I feel alive and I feel free. There is nothing as pure and invigorating as the feeling that running gives me. I wasn’t worried about my foot, my athletic career, what the future held, I wasn’t scared of breaking down again. For the first time, I didn’t feel fragile or weak, I felt powerful and strong.
The three days I spent in Wolgan Valley forced me to reset my body and re-evaluate why I was doing what I was doing. It was a huge turning point for me, a reminder that just because I wasn’t able to compete at that time, I was still a runner and I could still have an impact on my local and global communities in a positive way. It was a reminder for me to have the courage to be vulnerable and continue to share my experiences through injury, because there is no shame in dealing with an injury or any other obstacle in your life on and off the track. It just means that you are a human being and these obstacles make you a stronger version of yourself.
What I came to realise on The Immersion was that being ‘runners’ might have connected us, but it doesn’t define us. Everyone has something unique to bring to the group, we all have strengths and weaknesses, we are all humans. We each experienced various highs and lows, but we are all runners for life regardless of how many miles we logged or how fast we get to the finish line.