Yesterday I ran the American River Parkway Half Marathon. This was my first time participating in this event and I was admittedly nervous. I wasn't nervous about 'my' performance as I wasn't doing this event for me. I was there for a few half marathon neophytes who had never run 13.1 miles in their life..or hadn't done it in quite some time. My case of the nerves had much more to do with them than me.
The days leading up to this race were stressful and frenetic as always. I fielded a litany of questions, concerns, and a few near meltdowns. I had to talk a few people off the ledge who simply didn't think their body would hold up. This is nothing new for me. I've done it every season (typically four a year) for the past five years or so.
I sent out numerous emails outlining 'exactly' what to do, where to be, and more. Again, this is nothing new for me. I've been doing it for years. I do everything I can to make sure that I've covered everything that needs to be covered. I try to make sure no stone is left unturned.
In the moments prior to the race I was fortunate enough to connect with my runners and I did my best to put on a brave face and not let on that I was nervous. This kind of thing is contagious and if I appeared cool and confident hopefully they would feel the same. Few realize that underneath this mask is a seething mass of nerves that likely dwarfs any anxiety they feel.
My anxiety stems not from the daunting task of running 13.1 miles as it's old hat for me. I am often plagued with self-doubt as race day arrives. Have I served them well? Have I given them all they need? Have I truly prepared them for what lies ahead? How will they respond to finding themselves deep in the valley of fatigue and self-doubt?
My own questions and self-doubts are as familiar and repetitive as the questions and self-doubts I hear from the countless runners I have helped guide towards completing half marathons over the years. I understand why one might get tired of dealing with it. I understand how it could simply get 'old' after awhile. The problem is questions and self-doubts never really go away.
The only way I know how to get better at managing them is to simply confront them head on...over....and over....and over again. Maybe they never really go away. However, it's likely their voices will become quieter and less pronounced over time. Your ability to shut them up improves. What may have been paralyzing self-doubt previously becomes a brief flicker and quickly dissipates.
All season long we work on silencing these inner critics who question and doubt our ability to confront the challenge that lies ahead. It starts with a couple miles. It continues with 3 miles, then 4 miles, and eventually snowballs into 13.1 miles and perhaps more. The inner critics never go away, but we can silence them and take the power from their voice...which is why I run.