It was soooo obvious

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.

Lessons Learned:

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!


About heatherdaniel

I'm a runner, writer, eater and traveler.
This entry was posted in life, portland, running and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to It was soooo obvious

  1. sulochanosho says:

    Good theme and point there. Yes, ‘fun’ is a great medicine. To be sincere does’t mean you need to be serious.
    Have Fun and Run!

  2. xjvpastor says:

    I was training for a marathon last summer, and burned out because I let the training consume every aspect of my life. It became more work than fun. It wasn’t even a challenge it was just grueling taking on to much to fast. Rather just relaxing and scaling back I just quit. I quit doing anything. Well that isn’t exactly right. I started eating and drinking more. Then I just started gaining weight! I am back on track now, and trying to be more relaxed as well.

    I am doing this for my own health. I am doing this for my own peace of mind. Nothing else should matter.

  3. Porky says:

    “In the big picture, the only one who cares about time and performance is me” – great point. Keeping those thoughts in perspective is a simple thing, but not an easy thing.

  4. Topher says:

    What a great blog! Thanks for commenting on mine because I really enjoy finding new blogs to read, especially ones as well-written as yours.

    Here are a few comments on some of your posts:
    1. having registered for my first marathon last night, I was dismayed to read you thought “oh, I’ll just run one” but then got hooked. Dang it all, they’re more expensive and take more time, so what happens if I get hooked?
    2. You should totally get a Garmin. I got mine a week ago and already can’t imagine running life without it.
    3. Pacific Rim theme sounds awesome. I lived in Japan for several years and would love to run some races in Asia. Go for it; why wait?

  5. RazZDoodle says:

    Love your blog and thanks for stopping by mine. I, too, had some anxiety before my first HM. Luckily, my 2 small kids kept me hopping the day before. Sleeping, however, was a different story.

  6. Hi Heather. Thanks for visiting my blog.
    I totally get you about the whole performance anxiety. I had such a major case of it before last year’s marathon. I had trained all year for my first BQ attempt and told everyone beforehand that I would qualify. I was so nervous that I barfed twice on the way to the start. Geez. Everything worked out well, I BQ’d, but think I would have probably done better if I hadn’t put so much pressure on myself. Lesson learned. Great post!

  7. merrymishaps says:

    Good lessons … now you’ve just got to make sure your mind remembers that!

    The only race that ever made me really nervous? A one-mile track race. I’m a slow distance runner, and don’t really train for speed. I had no idea how I’d do, or how to pace myself!

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