Running Scared

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. I’m overdue for downtime I just can’t seem to make happen. One more week til vacation, thank goodness. It’s funny, because running is both a stressor and a release for me. I’ve been fighting with a lot of doubt and insecurity lately when it comes to running, since this marathon training cycle started, actually. I believe in setting big hairy-scary goals. If your goal doesn’t scare you then you’re not dreaming big enough. And with some things I’ve set out for lately, I’m terrified to the point of anxiety.

I haven’t run a full marathon in 2 years. And the last couple did not go so well. And the deeper I get into training the more I remember why I gave them up–the training is mentally very draining for me. And my long runs aren’t even that long at this point. I’ve had a lot of doubt since I signed up, I have a goal time in mind that I really want to hit, but I’m not sure that I can. By the numbers it seems doable but there’s the constant nagging voice at the back of my head, repeating an unfortunate mantra that I can’t seem to shake: fat, lazy, weak, and slow.

I run to get away from this voice. It doesn’t always work.

Last Thursday was a good example of that. The last Flash 5k of the summer. It was hot. I’d had a good run in the rain the night before. Had to wear different shoes because the ones I wanted to wear were still wet from the rain. The first mile was fine, then I fell apart. Couldn’t breathe right. Legs wouldn’t cooperate. Walked most of the last 2 miles. And I. Was. PISSED. People clapped and cheered at the finish–I would’ve given anything for them to disappear. I kept saying ‘don’t clap for this. don’t clap for this.’ as I approached the line. I went over to the table, wrote my number down, muttering about it being awful. And I blew straight past my friends without a word or eye contact. And I kept walking towards the parking lot. My buddy caught up to me, tried to talk me down, but I wasn’t having it. I pulled myself together enough to have fun at the post-race tailgate, but I was still very much in my head about the whole thing.

While I can’t just ‘run without my watch’ as my buddy suggested, I was able to extend myself a bit more grace during my long run on Sunday. Physically I was fine, but mentally, I needed ‘walking space’ to sort some stuff out. So I allowed myself to walk more than necessary so I could process. I realized one of the main factors in my running related anxiety lately is the challenge my friend offered up after the Liberty Mile to beat his time next year. I said yes, and I have felt anxious about it ever since. I really don’t think I can do it. I know that he thinks I can do it, he wouldn’t have challenged me if he didn’t.

We talked about it after my run. He tried to reassure me and bolster my confidence about it. I’m still not so sure. Just like I’m not sure about this marathon. I need to get out of my head about it and believe that I can. Intellectually the evidence says that I can do it. Mathematically I can do it. It’s completely possible, I just need to believe that. I need to outrun the voice. Back to back races this weekend in lieu of an actual long run–5k on Saturday and 10-miler on Sunday. Hoping that a few decent runs will keep the voice in check and restore some of my confidence. All I can do for now is focus on the run in front of me and keep putting one foot in front of the other. I can worry about the next challenge once I get through the marathon.

Happy Friday, friends.

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