Saturday, 15 October 2016

Running, racing and anxiety

Sorry for all the running posts at the moment. With my half marathon being tomorrow I'm overwhelmed with running thoughts, as I'll explain in this post.
I mentioned in my last post the nerves it's normal to feel leading up to a big race.
What I didn't mention is that this is the most anxious I've ever felt about a race in my whole time running.
I feel genuinely sick whenever I think about it.

I'm convinced I haven't done enough training - that my 11 days in Spain (where I came down with a cold and horribly chesty cough, but still managed to get 4 runs in) will have completely derailed all my hard work, that I haven't done enough speedwork to get a PB, that taking a couple of days rest this week because I could feel another cold coming on will mean I'll feel rusty tomorrow.

I'm having kittens about how we're going to get there. What if the tram is late? What if I don't have time to go to the toilet (again - this happened before my marathon)? What shall I do with my keys and money? What if I lose something? What time do we need to leave? When do I need to get up?

I've been sure all week I was going to get ill. In truth, I never quite shook off the cold I developed on holiday because I was so worried about missing my planned runs that I did them anyway, which made the cold worse for a few days. Everyone at work is coming down with a cold and I've been smashing Lockets and Cold and Flu tablets all week.

And worse of all, I'm petrified of not getting a PB. And I think this is the problem.

My last two half marathons - the first one I knew I wasn't going to do well but I just wanted to finish, and the second I knew I was guaranteed a PB because I struggled so much the first time.

This time a PB is probably going to be work, it's not guaranteed, and things not going perfectly on race day could completely derail my chances.

And I feel like not getting a PB is the end of the world.

And I know that's not true. That's 100% my anxiety talking. It really doesn't matter if I don't get a PB. But I don't want to feel like all my hard work has been for nothing (note: I know that won't be the case, but I know I'll feel like it's the case).

I think part of the issue is that I don't race half marathons that often, only really once a year. So it means if I don't get PB, it might be months before I run another one. I think I put this race on a huge pedestal, that's it's a "now or never" chance, which isn't true at all.

I don't care about not getting a parkrun PB every week, and I run enough 10Ks in a year to not care too much now if I don't always beat my time, so maybe the answer is more half marathons, so when I eventually stop getting a PB every time, it doesn't hurt as much.

I know this is my anxiety, but I can't help it.

When it comes to running, my anxiety helps in a lot of ways. It makes me very driven, means I find it impossible to deviate from a schedule and keeps me focused on my goals.

But it also means a change in my schedule can completely derail me, and the pressure to keep on top of the schedule can be overwhelming.

I'm always pushing myself to improve - to run faster, to run further, to run better. But I don't always know if that's good for me.

Do rules and restrictions help manage my anxiety or do they just feed into it?

I know it doesn't matter if I don't get a PB tomorrow. But I just don't want to be disappointed. I'm not even thinking about my original sub-2 hour goal because it seems so far away and the pressure to achieve that would drive me insane.

I always say I smiled the whole way around my last half marathon, and I know, really, that should be my goal.

Running helps my anxiety a lot, but I don't think racing is always good for me. But without a race on the horizon I lose my focus, and I have to have that goal. And I love to race.

My friend Amy wrote this in her newsletter this week, and it could not sum up my anxiety more:

"I may be mad but I'm a very high-functioning mad. It's something my most recent therapist could never get her head round – she'd ask me what my anxiety or depression would stop me from doing and I would say "Nothing". I volunteer to do the presentation, I go to the scary social engagement, I start the new job, I put myself forward and do the scary thing again and again and again. My crazy doesn't stop me from doing anything, it just makes everything I do do a little bit shit. It makes me worry and obsess and panic. It's a little voice in my ear telling me that I'm wrong, I'm bad, I'm doing it wrong, everyone hates me, I'm useless, I'm pathetic. But yeah, I keep going and doing it anyway because the alternative is not doing things and that wouldn't be much fun either."

And that's me, 100%. Racing might be challenging for me, but I don't want to stop doing it just because it's hard. I want to keep pushing myself, but I need to make sure it isn't doing me any harm.

And all I can do tomorrow is my best.

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