This post is part of The Runner’s Lounge on-going “Take it and Run Thursday” series where they ask runners/bloggers to contribute their thoughts and ideas. This week they’ve asked us to share an obvious problem and the obvious answer that for some reason just wasn’t that obvious at the time. I hope you’ll enjoy my contribution.
My Seemingly Complicated Problem: Performance Anxiety
A few months ago I participated in the the Shamrock 15K Challenge in Portland, Oregon. It was a huge race and trained hard all winter. I felt like the 15k should be a breeze; I should be able to kick some serious butt and strut away from the race like a champ.
The night before the race I transformed into an anxious worrywart. All happiness I usually associate with running disappeared and was replaced by deep self-doubt.
What if I don’t run fast enough?
What if I bonk?
What if I don’t do as well as I should?
What if I have to walk, or get injured or can’t make it up a hill?
I couldn’t stop thinking about worst what-if scenarios. Then a quesy/crampy feeling invaded my stomach. The stress, the doubt, the questions, were sinking into my belly and expanding into an uncomfortable knot. I had effectively made myself sick with worry. Over a fun run. The irony was not lost on me. Later in bed, my stomach gurgled and I put my hand over the tight drum of acid. Why was I making such a big deal over a small race?
Race day arrived and my quesy stomach rebelled. Between trips to the bathroom, I bounced between excitement and nervousness. I regretted inviting a friend to meet me at the finish line. If I was going to bonk, I wanted to bonk with the fewest number of witnesses as possible. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew how ridiculous I was being. I’ve run races before – this one shouldn’t be any different, but for some reason, I just felt like because I had trained so hard, I MUST perform well. I expected it.
I did OK in the 15K, but it wasn’t a happy race and it wasn’t a fun race – at least not until about half way through when I decided to quit worrying about what I should do and resolved to just run the damn race.
1. In the big picture, the only one who cares about time and performance is me. It wouldn’t have been catastrophic to anyone but me if I had bonked or not finished, or finished poorly. It’s important to want to achieve personal running goals and to surpass personal expectations, but those expectations shouldn’t ruin a race day.
2. It was sooooo obvious! I needed to get outside my head. Thinking about how fast I wanted to go didn’t help me. In fact, I lost myself analyzing all the potential problems. Now I spend the day before a race actively not thinking about running. I pretend as if I might wake up in the morning and decide I’d rather sleep in, or go shopping or paint my nails (ok, maybe not that last one.) The point is, I know I will run, I just try hard not to think about it too much. I get too nervous.
3. As a guy I met from Whole Foods often tells me, there are no Should’s or Must’s. I don’t HAVE to run. I shoudn’t beat myself up either. I struggle to remember that.
My problem: I can be an nervous runner and an anxious competitor who concentrates on the negative and worst case scenarios
The Solution: It was soooooo obvious! I needed to be reminded to have fun!