I run because the endorphins balance my mind and the time outside soothes my spirit. When I haven’t run in a while, I am more easily frustrated and restless. I don’t sleep as well at night, nor do I focus as easily during the day.
It’s ironic, then, that the week before my first big race, I’m not running much at all. I need sleep before a half marathon, right? I need focus. I don’t need crabbiness and frustration, nor do my friends and family!
But people with more race experience assure me it’s not only okay to cut back on running before a big event, it’s wise. Tapering restores your body after training and allows you the proper rest before heading into a big race.
My last long run was nine very hilly miles in south Alabama two Saturdays ago. More by necessity than know-how, I’ve been limited to short, 3-5 mile runs in the days since. That makes me very nervous about Saturday, when I’ll be one of 30,000 people hoofing it from Centennial Park to LP Field.
I’m worried I will have forgotten how to do this.
What if I screw up the pacing? What if I’m so mortified and/or pumped up by the people passing me that I speed up, then run out of steam, and am thereby forced to eventually walk?
What if I don’t stop for water because I convince myself it’s sissy to stop, even though I’ve learned from experience that I’ll finish the whole thing much more quickly if I pause half a minute to hydrate?
What if I don’t finish it in the time I said I would finish it? What if I’m at the bottom half of my age group? What if I’m the slowest of all the people I know? Can I call the guy at the paper who is putting the race results online and make sure he takes my name out of the list?
All these are mental hurdles. I know I am physically prepared to run the half marathon. I’ve been training since fall, and I’ve already handled more distance than the race I’m running Saturday. I know the only thing in my way is my head, which is kind of a mess right now because I haven’t been running as much, because I’m doing what the real runners say is best.
Maybe I should do what my friend Jackie says and just “run my race”. That means understanding why I run in the first place: I don’t do it because I’m particularly good at it. I do it because I enjoy it. So, who cares if I fall apart physically, right? Because I know I’ll finish. I know I’ll have fun. And when it’s over, I’ll be back to running like no one’s watching.