I belong to an Episcopal church by our house, and in Sunday's service Father Tom gave a sermon about Fear. He used an example of having to attend a Roman Catholic service the previous week and hearing the priest say a half-dozen times that no one can take communion if they are not Catholic. He felt that it was an example of fear tactics, then citing some scriptures. Meanwhile my mind was drifting to the subject of Fear.
As a marathon runner, Fear is a good thing. It is what keeps me going. When you step into your corral before a race, knowing there are 26.2 miles out there to be traversed, perhaps elements to fight as well, you had better be prepared. When you watch that youtube time-lapse video showing the entirety of the New York City or Miami Marathon courses, all their twists and turns, it can be a scary feeling.
No matter how many of them you have run, Fear keeps you going. You never approach a marathon thinking it is something automatic and comfortable. You know you are going to want your fastest finish, and you are going to train your ass off to get there. You know there are tough times ahead. Fear makes you go out for a run when it is too hot or too cold, when you are too tired, when you are too busy. Fear makes you sprawl out on the grass after that run and do 100 crunches and pushups. Fear makes you go to the gym.
I always laugh inside whenever people tell me that running is bad for your knees, bad for whatever. What they are saying is that they Fear that unknown and cannot rationalize it any other way. It is easier to tell yourself what you have heard, that people get bad knees from running. It is harder to work on quads and hamstrings to offload the strain on knee joints. Fear makes you do that. I needed 14 P.T. sessions to get over my I.T. Band syndrome that ripped up my Miami Marathon in January, when I dragged my left leg for 1 1/2 miles, and Fear reminds me to keep strengthening my hips so it won't happen again.
Fear is what makes me register for multiple races well in advance. Having that scary goal out there will keep pushing you and motivating you. I decided to run three marathons in 2012: Miami in January, Paris in April and New York City in November. I was excited about it but Fear has led the way. Now I can smell the buildup toward my third NYCM and all I can think about is how much it hurt when I got to Harlem in Mile 21, the nausea and the bonking quads. I try to remember only the good things about the Paris Marathon, but I can't forget the whimpering around Mile 20 as a steady cold wind refused to leave me alone and just badgered and butchered me all the way to the finish. Fear is not knowing what to expect.
It is natural to Fear that your body is aging and you might slow down and that one day running will not mean as much as it does to you now. I never want to stop running. I run out of Fear that one day I will. It is in those times that I remind myself why I love it so much, which is an entire other blog post. I'm off to train now.
What does Fear mean to you as a runner?