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 Now that I have four marathons under my feet, the first time marathon fear has been replaced by something stronger.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)
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.