There was once a time when I was petrified to race–super scared. I mentioned this last week but there is more to it. I use to cry before every race and I also use to count how many more races I had left before I would graduate from high school. I hated racing. HATED it. I know this may seem hard to believe since I went on to run in college and then joined a track club but it’s true. It’s very very true.
In high school running was something I hated more than I loved. I liked it but I didn’t love it and I only enjoyed it when I did well. I couldn’t handle it when I did poorly but I could never bring myself to quit–I almost quit a few times but that’s another story for another day. I put entirely too much pressure on myself to perform at the highest level I could all the time and by the time I was a senior I was running terribly and stopped running for a few months entirely, but again that’s another story for another day.
I hated racing so much that I became obsessive with my running and I became afraid to race in fear that I would disappoint myself. I’m not sure how it happened but I let running define who I was–this is/was so unhealthy. I was so afraid that if I had a bad race I would be less of who I was. I know this caused my young teenage self to have a lot of confidence issues. It also didn’t help that when I ran well I was praised and rewarded and when I ran poorly I was not. So I felt pressure to run well all the time even if my body physically wouldn’t let me. Im sure some of the pressure was imagined but I know some of it was real. I’m not completely crazy! Anyone who has ever run a race knows how stressful it is and how mentally taxing it can be post race.
So anyway, this pressure would build up to the point where I was in tears on the starting line because I was so afraid of failing. I think this is usually the cause of nervousness for most people but for me I would physically feel sick and I couldn’t control my emotions. I have to be honest, I’m not perfect and I still sometimes freak out before races but I can usually keep my composure now or I just go away and have a private meltdown. Every single race during my freshman year of high school was torture. One day I was especially afraid to race and it was just a duel meet, an easy win–our team was undefeated that year. My coach basically said not to run, probably because she couldn’t take me being so ridiculously afraid of races anymore. I contemplated not racing but then I did it anyway. That was my out and I didn’t take it–I couldn’t tell you exactly why. My life would be so different if I did, it’s incomprehensible.
After that I stopped crying on the starting line but I still felt sick to my stomach every race day. Weeks when we had more than one race were rough. Track meets where I had to run more than one event were also rough. Track season when we had more than one race in a week and I had to run multiple events were like hell on earth. I started to really hold a grudge against running by about April of my freshman year of high school. Even though I hated racing I also loved it because sometimes it was worth it–some races I would run really well. Sometimes I would PR and sometimes I would place well and that was enough to keep me from quitting. I loved and still love the moment after you cross the finish line when you’ve had a great race and it doesn’t feel real. This is the main reason I’ve never stopped! I live for those few previous races when you feel fast, light, agile, nothing hurts, and your body and your mind are in sync. These races exist even though they are rare. These races made me start to LOVE running and racing and these races are the reason I still run.