On January 1, that universal day of self-reflection and self-flagellation, I decided to focus my crusade toward self-improvement on fitness. I was going to start running again, and I was going to stick with it this time. The best way to assure this was twofold: proclaim it on Facebook, and sign up for a 5K. That was three months ago. The race is tomorrow.
In my belly is this strange mix of anxiety and confidence. I’m in week 10 of the Zen Labs 10K Trainer program. I am now running 3.5 miles without dying, and a 5K is effectively 3.1 miles. My last 5K was five years ago, and while I hadn’t effectively trained for it, I did finish. Now I am ready. And yet, I’m doubting myself. Why? Because that first 5K didn’t go as great as I’d hoped.
It was hot, for one, and the air was thick. I was used to running along the beach, where the morning air is crisp and clear. The heat and humidity at the race site caught me offguard. For the entire run, I felt as if I couldn’t regulate my breathing. I also made the mistake of starting in the middle of the pack. I am a slow runner, and feeling everyone whoosh past me made me want to run faster than I should have in the beginning, and also was a bit demoralizing. I also hadn’t trained for the few weeks ahead of the race — finding time for long runs while having what were then a 3- and 6-year-old was impossible. And the bagel I thought would give me energy instead sat in my stomach like a boulder. Halfway through the race I felt as if my breakfast was lodged up against my esophagus, and I had to take a break and walk. I was so mad at myself for that.
Could all those things, or something similar, happen again? Tomorrow’s weather forecast is windy and cold — 33 degrees. I can handle the cold but the wind is scaring me. I’ve spent the last few months running on the treadmill, thanks to this too-long winter and the recent dismantling of my favorite outdoor run spot, the Rockaway Beach boardwalk. What if I’m running against the wind? What if I’m not dressed right? My stomach wigs out again? My music won’t play? What if it’s just too damn hard?
Oh boy. I really need to stop this. To do so, I Googled “pre-race anxiety.” The best advice I found came from Dean Karnazes’s Running World blog:
We cannot control the competition. We cannot control the weather. We cannot control the struggles that will undoubtedly arise during the run. All we can control is ourselves. Standing at the starting line, I make the simple commitment to myself that today I will try my hardest. No matter what happens during the race, I will give it everything I’ve got and won’t give up without my strongest fight.
This, I realized, I can do. I can give it my best. I can pledge not to give up. I will aim for the finish line and stay focused on the excited, happy (and hopefully not too cold) faces that will greet me there. I will focus on setting a good example for my children, show them that the mom they’re most used to seeing in front of the stove or staring at a computer screen can actually move, and fast. I’ll give it my all, and prove to myself that if I can accomplish this, maybe I can also realize some other dreams I have.
I’ll let you know what happens.