Monday, August 18, 2014

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

OK, that was an attention-grabbing headline.You really shouldn't be afraid, per se. But if you are nervous or excited or anxious or any of those other emotions before the start of your race (regardless of the distance) that is a very good thing.  Let me explain why.

When I am doing my usual routine of book signing and answering 18 quazillion questions at a race expo, I can almost immediately identify many of the first time runners. They more or less are biting off their bottom lip. Whether they are freaking out about what it is they are about to try, are simply anxious to just get the race started, or a combination of all of those things, I can always tell they just want to get rid of the nervous feeling. I say do not even try.

I have found that the biggest part of being nervous about running event has to do with actually being nervous. By that I mean, it is the nervous feeling itself that is making the runners wig out, not the actual event itself. I try to tell them that I have run 149 marathons and at the starting line of every one, I have felt butterflies. Heck, if I go more than two months without a marathon, I am a virtual wreck when I toe the line (which has happened a lot the past few years as I try different races and give my body a break.)  Next month I will be taking on just my third marathon this year. I am going to be an absolute mess.

But here's the thing - I want that feeling. As an adult, how often do you get to experience the feeling of nervousness and anxiety and trepidation that does not fall before something that is probably not good? Called into the boss' office, get a call from the principal, listen to your carpenter/auto mechanic tell you what whatever you are going to get fixed is going to cost? That's about it, right? There are no more proms, first kisses, graduations, or Friday Night football games, for most of us.  But every starting line is filled with so much promise and hope.

What you do need to do is be aware you have that nervous feeling for a reason.  For a first-timer, you have never run that far in your life.  For a seasoned veteran, you know what it takes to get to the finish line and are aware it takes pain and sacrifice. For everyone in between, there is the knowledge that this could be a day when you set a personal best or it could be a day of horrific flopping. But until you start running, you are unsure what, if any, of these things it will be.

So embrace the nervousness. Know what it is and refuse to let it take over your mind. Know it is there to keep you alert and on the edge.  Hopefully it will remind you that you shouldn't done stupid things right now like eating spicy Thai food you have never had before in your life 8 hours before you get up to run.  Or you might be getting up for the runs.

My point is, the answer to a question someone posed to me "How do you keep from being nervous about stepping to the line and not feeling ready for the race even though your are properly trained and have been down this road before?" is "I don't." Or more accurately,  I do not want to.

Imagining what can happen is part of the wonderfulness of this sport.

1 comment:

Fairytales and Fitness said...

I remember feeling like this when I first started to run races. I am no longer nervous, I guess because I know what to expect. However, I always have that excited feeling though! ~M