For approximately 3k in any race, I pretty much want to die, stop running, give up OCR, take up knitting, or start creating a basic shelter in surrounding woodland in which I can hibernate. In short, it takes me a while to warm up. By about 4k, I start to feel positive about the fact that I’m getting into the swing of it, finding a sensible pace and not overtly negative about my life choices. By the end of the race, I’ve forgotten what my stupid brain was whining about and I’ve got my game face on for a sprint finish.
This Sunday I started a run that I knew I was in absolutely no frame of mind to do. This had nothing to do with the run itself (Sheffield Man of Steel), which was a fun (admittedly very running biased) course around the incredibly hilly Graves Park. It made use of the natural and sometimes unforgiving terrain, and whilst I think it relied a little too heavily on cargo nets, it was a nice jaunt, with some of the best monkey bars I’ve ever seen at a race. The atmosphere was great too. I really just think I’d had a shitty prep time, wasn’t in the right head-space and was just too anxious to concentrate on enjoying myself.
Anxiety pops up at the weirdest times, and I don’t expect everyone to be able to empathise, but I had a huge crisis of confidence, convinced myself that my (lovely) spectators didn’t really want to be there and that I was inconveniencing everyone. I felt like I wasn’t doing myself justice, that I’d disappoint my family and basically every negative thought possible weighed heavier on my mind than the sandbag I was carrying. So after completing the course and getting over the final obstacle, the monkey bars (which were tough!), I decided to bail the 10k and go for the 5k.
Ordinarily, I would view this as a failure, a DNF, or a great loss, but for some reason I didn’t. The rational part of my brain, whether innate or the product of therapy, kicked in and said, ‘Dude, you listened to yourself. Give yourself a break and stop. You’ve run a race this weekend already. Nobody will love you less for not doing another lap.’
And I did. I stopped. I pulled left over the finish line, cleared the distance change with the organisers and felt no less a competitor for it.
The world didn’t end.
Was a bit disappointed? Yeah. Am I gonna beat myself up over it? God, I hope not.
Some days, anxiety kicks my butt. Sometimes I give in. But I’ll be stronger tomorrow.
Until then, there’s puppy hugs.