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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