Monday, December 19, 2011


This isn't the first time I've written about fear.

I think every runner has felt it to some degree.

It ranges from the physical fear that grabs at the throat every time I choose my start position at a 5K race to the 16 weeks of psychological terror that punctuated the phrase, "I just signed up for my first marathon....what if   (fill in the blank, there are a lot of blanks to choose from here)  ."

In general though, I don't suffer from those forms of fear any more.  Well, maybe a little, but at least the 5K fear is fleeting.  Now that I have four marathons under my feet, the first time marathon fear has been replaced by something stronger.  This new fear is potent.

I first tasted it after the Richmond Marathon '11, and it burned a hot path as it traveled to the pit of my stomach.  I quickly learned that too much at once can render me senseless, and the hangover the next day is nothing to joke about.

It's not really fear of failure, because I don't wonder if I can finish.  I don't question if I can get through the race...  I know I can.  I know that experience has taught me that I can get my sorry a** across the finish line of a marathon with a flu-like virus.  If there was an opportunity for "traditional failure" it was there, right?

No, failure isn't the fear.

I am far more afraid of sucking.

I have F.O.S...  aka, fear of sucking.

"Try not to suck"
(a sign on the RVA Marathon course)
What if I go out and do this and I suck at it again.  What will my friends, family, coach, peers, blog readers, and self think?  Won't they think I'm a selfish B*tch if I keep asking for their support if I suck at this sport?

After sucking at the Richmond Marathon...  I thought... well for a few minutes there, I thought I might not be a runner.  Shut the front door.

Nina Rosenstand, an ethicist I'd never heard of until Ethics a few semesters ago, said, "Courage is not the absence of fear, rather it is the appropriate response to fear."

I think the news here is that I get to say I'm either courageous ... or stupid.  You see, I suffered from bone jarring fear in the four weeks between the two marathons.  I felt it on every run, whether it was four miles or fourteen.

This was fear that made me nauseous.  Fear that stopped me mid sentence.  Fear that I could not ignore and yet I pretended did not exist.

This was the kind of fear I feared acknowledging.

In a lot of respects I live with the idea that if you acknowledge something, it can take the power away.  Like, admitting to a boy you have a crush on him is sometimes the easiest way to "get over him", or starting a public speaking engagement with, "Wow, this is a really intense crowd, I'm a little nervous" can pop the cork and release the tension of the moment.

Sometimes though, "speaking evil makes it stronger".  I mean seriously, if you learned NOTHING from Harry Potter, surely you learned this.

My main fear going into RBm was centered around the idea that if I failed, I had no one to blame but myself.  At RVA I had a virus that knocked me down for days.  At RBm, if I sucked, it was all on me.

me, and no one else.

I would have to claim responsibility for my OWN sucking if I sucked.

Of course, that thought is a bad one.  Then the pressure the fear grows to another level... and includes embarrassment.  People will know I just plain old suck at this...  And won't they wonder why in the world I'm doing this if I suck so badly?

Moreover, if I suck, how could I possibly find the courage to try again?  26.2 miles isn't easy.  It hurts a lot, and it's more of a mind f*#k that you could possibly know.  Why does someone who sucks put themselves through this?  There are plenty of other things I could be doing with my time...  

...shuffle board anyone?

I did not suck at Rehoboth Beach Marathon.  I wasn't epic, but I didn't suck.  I was happy with my plan, and I executed it the way I envisioned.  Within reason.  ~shower~

I wish I could say that the Fear of Sucking was completely extinguished by my success in Rehoboth Beach DE.   That it was left behind on the beautiful tree lined path, or had blown away in the gusts that whistled through Henlopen State Park.

I can't though.  It's still there.

However, today the appropriate response to that fear is to look ahead with confidence.  To keep training, and to set goals that skirt the edge of my abilities.

Because if there's one thing I am, it's courageous.

or stupid.


fancy nancy said...

I would go with courageous! You train so hard and put it all out there each time. That takes courage! Keep plugging on!! Oh and I don't think you suck!

bobbi said...

YES! FoS. I haz it.

Or FoNGAB. (fear of not getting any better (at this)). I HAVE to get better. Right?

carrie said...

I get it completely. FYI though, you don't suck, you ROCK!!!

Michelle said...

Ahhhh....just blogged about this yesterday. Thank you. At least now I have a diagnosis and know I'm not crazy. I think I'll stick to your label and remind myself that I'm courageous and stupid! :)

(Just) Trying is for Little Girls said...

I like that, "goals that skirt the edge of my abilities". Oh, and I learned this weekend that sucking is relative. Not getting the goal I set doesn't mean I'm not a winner, just saying.

Meredith said...

My friend, I hear you, and I'm absolutely, 100%, going with courageous. Seriously.

Jen said...

COURAGES for even trying.... love ya!

And I am afraid of doing worse... especially when my bests aren't so hot.

Pam said...

I don't fear sucking. I embrace it.

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

My husband doesn't understand people who run marathons (or distance events) who aren't "good at it." Yes, he actually said that. He might "fast." I'm not sure how he defined that word but it reminded me that not everyone, (even people close to runners)understands the passion of a runner or the pressure we put on ourseleves.
I don't usually have FOS because no matter how I do, I will feel as though I did the best I could given the day. I usually only worry about something that is really senseless, what others will think. As if they actually care.
My husband's remarks (not to your blog in particular at all) remind me that many others just don't "get it." So I don't worry about sucking, I am not measured by my performance on one day during one run. It's what I do the day after and how I do it that matters to me.
Not that my opinion matters because ONLY yours does, but you do not suck. A day can. A race can. You don't!....

CJ said...

Courageous! That sounds better than "optimistic," which is usually my (weak) counter to the FOS mentality. Keep your goals in sight, believe them. You do the work, and they will come to you. Cheers! ~Corey