Oh The Fears of Running! (also told through the film Run, Fat Boy, Run)

I’m cranky today. I’m cranky because for the umpteenth morning I have gotten up earlier than I have to and went for my morning run.  Usually this doesn’t bother me, I love running in the morning.  The air is fresh, despite the fact that one of the farmers recently applied chicken shit all over his field so the entire area smells like…you guessed it, chicken shit. Spring is here, so I don’t have to fight the bitter cold, I don’t have to fight against darkness from lack of sunlight.  I AM grumpy because I didn’t have a very good run.  It was fine.  I felt fine, but I wasn’t into it.  I pushed myself.  But I still wasn’t into it. So I began forcing myself to focus and get through it, mentally pushing myself vs. just physically.  A bad run is one thing, but a bad run just less than three weeks away from my marathon starts the process of fear and self doubt.

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With this, I began thinking about my fears I associate with running this marathon and how they have changed from when I started the training six and half months ago to today.  They are very different.  I may not be an elite runner, I may not cross the finish line in an hour and fifty seven minutes, or finish it without crying my eyes (this is probably what I’m going to do), but I have done my research. I have read blogs, running magazines, books on mental training for runners, physical training, etc.  I read about stretches, and training plans, and all kinds of stuff.  And with the research comes education on how to be a better runner.  Am I a perfect runner, haha no.  But I have more experience and with that experience my fears and challenges have changed to be more specific.  So I wanted to share the comparisons to my fears of running this marathon from start to finish.  Please share any that you have experienced as a runner!

  1. BeginnerI’m afraid I won’t be able to push myself to commit to this long training program. 

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I wrote that when I completed my first week in November. It’s amazing to think how far I’ve come since then, and also humbling.  Overcoming this challenge has not been without it’s setbacks.  There was a lot of running in the dark in the evenings because it was winter, I got sick twice (once with a very aggressive stomach bug, and once with strep), I lost two relatives in a month due to terminal illnesses, had to travel and visit one relative who is fighting the good fight with cancer, and came back that same week and had to bury my cat who was killed in a freak accident while we were away. every time I went back to training, it was for all of those loved ones, but sometimes it was a little too much grief or weakness for me to overcome.  Jeff was great about helping me and motivating me along the way. So really, I owe it all to him and his support.

NOW: I’m afraid my training is not enough and I’m not ready.

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            Seven months later, I’m not afraid of finishing the program, I’m afraid it won’t be enough.  And from what I’ve read in several articles, this apparently is normal.  But it’s still nerve-wrecking when you’re so close and you have a run that just doesn’t feel good.  The best thing I can do is trust my training, trust the 18 miler I ran, properly taper, and calm the HELL DOWN.

2. Beginner: I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to quit smoking.

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             This one has been a tricky one. In January, I finally bit the bullet and bought nicotine patches and quit.  For about a month and a half.  Then after my grandfather passed and there were lots of moments with family members where EVERYONE SMOKES, I gave back in, BUT not nearly as much as I was when I quit.  I was smoking about 20 cigarettes plus a day when I originally quit, and when I started back in late February I was up to five a day.  So, again, I had to bite the bullet and quit cold turkey.

    NOW: I’m afraid that, after I run my marathon I will want to start back up again

         I used this marathon as motivation to quit, but I’m afraid that when i get those post marathon blues that I’m going to want to sneak it back into my life.  My plan is to take a couple of weeks off from running after the marathon, and then ease back into running three days a week with a long run on week to maintain my quitting.

3. Beginner: I’m afraid I’m going to shit my pants.

Ya’ll this is an actual anxiety that marathoners have to think about.  As hilarious as it might sound, fueling improperly, taking in a product you haven’t used during your training, too much sugar can really cause a problem with the tummy.

    Now: I’m afraid I’m going to shit my pants.

It’s just something that’s lingering in the back of your mind.  But I should be okay, I have practiced with a variety of products and haven’t had any problems yet.

4. Beginner: I’m afraid of I’m not going to hydrate enough

Feeling like your thirsty and going to die is what I was thinking when I originally wrote this.  That and how much I am going to want a cheeseburger.  But I used to be a heavy Diet Coke drinker and lover all unsweetened teas.

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      Now: I’m afraid I will not replace my electrolytes well enough.

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I never understood how important sports drinks were until I realized that water was just not enough.  Especially when I started to get into longer mileage. I’m a pretty salty sweater, and from what I have experienced, Gatorade is the perfect replenishment for losing these electrolytes. And that’s what I’ve practiced with and seems to work for me.  But depending on a hot day or whether or not a race has it, depends on how much I get in.  I do have a hydration belt that I carry Gatorade in (My favorites are green apple, strawberry watermelon, and arctic cherry).  The plan is to sip that after every mile (I walk a minute every mile after mile 3) and trade off and have water at the water stations.

5. Beginner: I’m afraid I’m going to do serious damage to my body.

This is a lot of the reason why, I think, people don’t sign up to run marathons.  Seven months ago, the thought of running 3 miles without stopping to walk was exhausting.  But I worked my way up, not pushing myself too much, and finally got there.  Then a few months ago, I ran seven miles without stopping and I couldn’t believe it.  You CAN progress to that, and it’s like little accomplishments along the way. When I wrote down this fear seven months ago, I was thinking ‘my god, I might break myself in half!’

      Now: I’m afraid I’m going to start out the race too fast and injure myself or hit the wall very soon trying to maintain that time.

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Last weekend I ran my first half-marathon race.  It was totally different from the 13, 16, 18 milers that I ran before.  The reason? The race adrenaline.   You are there, it’s early, everyone is excited, you feel all the feels from hearing the national anthem, you see these beautiful volunteers and loved ones there to support all of the runners. You want to make them all proud!  But, I had to remember ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and ‘ stick to your own pace’ that I had read so many times as sound advice from marathon coaches, runners, experts, etc.  When I did my first 6 mile long run, I came to the conclusion that my long distance pace should be around 12 minutes per mile.  Sure, I could run 6 miles in 11:00 if I really pushed myself up the hills, and could do 10:00 per mile easily on flat terrain, but 12 minutes per mile seemed to help me last the longest.  And with my half marathon last weekend, I averaged about 11:51-ish the first half and 12:00 to 12:21-ish the second half.  Because I kept trying to maintain the faster side of 12 minutes on hillsides I ended up getting tired around mile 11 (that was the longest f*&%ing mile!). But for pretty much all of the race I was on my own pace, around the same pace and I felt great.  I was isolated for a while with a few other runners ahead or behind me, but I kept at my own pace and ended up finishing strong!

These are my fears that I have had or am having currently.  you can see they have turned more specific, but the fears are there all the same.  I wanted to write about these because I feel like there are not a lot of articles out there talking about peoples’ fears when it comes to running.  Runners might mention them, but quickly say you can’t be afraid or to dismiss them.  But I feel to do those two things, you have to acknowledge what you’re afraid of.  This helps trust the training.

Just another stepping stone to finishing that marathon in three weeks!

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