A Beautiful Work in Progress, Chapters 9-15
Posted on Nov. 18th, 2021
"Fear can be crippling or it can be motivating and somewhat liberating. I choose to let it motivate me." - Mirna Valerio (pg# 144).
There is not ever a time that I step to the starting line for a race in which I don't feel nervous. It doesn't matter whether it's the Olympic trials or a team time trial. It doesn't matter whether it is an 800m (my main event) or a 5k. It doesn't matter whether I'm racing against the best in the world at a Diamond League event or against my neighbors who also signed up for the local road race. I regret to report that the nerves have not gone anywhere as I've grown in this sport. I get just as nervous for races now as I did back in high school. What has changed over the years is how I view those nerves and that's what the author is getting at here. Though Valerio covers a wide range of topics here from giving us more back story about the family members for whom she runs to dealing with an injury, this week's blog will focus on dealing with nerves through the lens of Valerio's fear of thunderstorms in chapter 12.
Fear used to cripple me. Fear of losing, fear of disappointing myself, and fear of not achieving what I know I'm capable of for a given race would keep me awake for several nights in a row leading up to the bigger races in high school. I was constantly anxious about upcoming races, going into and out of waves of stress as race day approached. Valerio faced similar anxiety from a fear of thunderstorms that stemmed from her childhood. The threat of a storm on race day could bring her near to a panic and even when storms weren't in the forecast, she would always be on the lookout for good places to shelter just in case. Whether or not a fear is rational, the nervous response is real and needs to be addressed. I can sympathize with such a concern when the races she runs are hours long.
With time and experience, we have both learned ways to respond through positive self-talk. In the case of my fears, I choose to focus on the reasons why I can win, why I can execute to the best of my abilities, and why I can reach that goal and drown out the reasons that make me doubt. Valerio chooses to make light of her fears, acknowledging their irrationality with a tinge of comic relief and reminding herself that storms are temporary. They will end at some point and it's up to her to keep going through it, embracing that fear until she reaches the other side. In some ways, this is a metaphor for the storms that life throws at us as well.
1. Do you get nervous before races? What makes you nervous? How do you combat those nerves?
2. What do you tell yourself before and during a race to remain focused and continue to fight any fears or doubts that may arise?