This past weekend, I completed my first long-distance race.
I have only run one other "competitive race," and it was a 5K (or 3.1 miles). I loved running the 5K, so I decided to set a goal to run a longer race.
Rewind to February: I found myself signing up for the biggest 10-mile race in the US.
The time between the sign-up and the race seemed like it would last forever, but before I knew it, there was only a month left to complete training.
The training went great; I ran a favorite loop of mine and built up the miles. I knew the loop was 2.5 miles long, and I eventually ran it so many times, I was able to run 8 miles.
I knew if I could run 8 miles, I could complete the 10 mile race, no problem. My confidence was soaring; I was running the 8 miles at a quick pace and was ready for the big race.
The weekend of the race approached, and I completed one last run. I just wanted to get in a 5K so I wouldn't overexert myself.
However, the last training run was tough, filled with many hills and wind. I was freaking out. All I could think about was how much I hated my anxiety and how I couldn't let my anxiety ruin this goal I set for myself.
Now that the race is all said and done (spoiler alert: I finished it), I can think back to all the times anxiety almost ruined my goals and how I now know what to expect and conquer in the future:
The Pre-Race Jitters
The day before the race, we had to head into the city to pick up our bibs.
While I was there, I saw people of all ages getting their race gear, but all I could truly see were the people who looked like they were going to be so much faster than I was!
I went with my fiancé, and he loved the pre-race expo. He was going up to every booth, getting free stuff, talking to the vendors and just truly enjoying himself.
I had one goal in mind: get my bib, get my free t-shirt and get out. I know if I enjoyed myself more, I would have forgotten about the race, collected my free goodies and genuinely had a better time.
Next year, I vow to enjoy myself more and stock up on the swag.
We went out to grab lunch after the expo, and I couldn't stop thinking about what would be the best things to eat pre-race.
I needed to know what I was going to eat for lunch, snacks and dinner that night. I couldn't just enjoy my down time in the city with my fiancé (a rare occurrence for us).
I know how important it is to fuel your body, but my anxiety once again had me 10 steps ahead of the game, waiting for the next meal and wondering if it would be a good idea to eat.
Note to self: Eat whatever you want next year and enjoy it.
The Morning Of
I was miserable. When I am nervous and anxious, I get quiet. My fiancé was excited and energetic, and I was ready to snap at him.
Before the race, I read it is important to get in line for the bathroom, as the lines fill up quickly.
Well, obviously my anxious self did just that. I didn't even spend one moment taking in the scene around me: thousands of runners gearing up together to run the city.
Instead, I did what the articles told me to do and got in line, still barely speaking to anyone.
As the race was about to start, I knew I would have to use the bathroom again (a wasted 10 minutes of time 1.5 miles into the run), and that was all I could think of.
As people around me took selfies, laughed with their friends and family and cheered as the horns went off, my mind was racing.
Anxiety can truly ruin an amazing moment for you. Now that I look back, I wish I had soaked it all in.
Don't Try New Things
I got a sore right foot during the last few runs I had before the race. So, the night before, when my fiancé and I went to stock on some items for breakfast, I thought it would be a good idea to buy insoles for my shoes because my anxiety told me I couldn't finish the race with a sore foot.
For the first 5 miles of the run, my feet were completely numb because I wasn't used to running with the insoles.
At mile 5, I had enough. I removed the insoles and instantly felt better and found my stride.
Next year, I won't let my pre-race anxiety tell me to buy new things.
Mile 7 was the worst. How could I possibly have 3 miles left to go? Instead of thinking I had already completed 7 miles, I could only focus on the 3 miles left to go.
I couldn't enjoy all the fun signs and cheering around me; I was cursing every step in my head.
Mentally, I kept telling myself I couldn't make it. Anxiety was going to win this one, and I was going to walk the rest of the way or just stop.
Everyone around me seemed to be running so fast and seemed fine. I wasn't going to complete this goal.
I told my fiancé how much I hated this run and that I was never doing it again. As my rock, he laughed it off. He told me to keep going and that we were almost there.
Every step I took, he let me know how much closer we were. I am never running a race without him; he pushes the anxious thoughts out of my head.
I Could Finish, And Anxiety Wouldn't Stop Me
Note to everyone: have your loved ones close to the finish line. Like I said, miles 7 to 10 sucked, and my anxiety was winning.
But, with the encouragement of my fiancé and seeing my parents at mile 9.25, I knew I would make it.
My mom was screaming our names and jumping up and down; she was so excited to see us, and their faces gave me that added push to make it to the end.
As we were about .25 miles away from the finish, I looked at my fiancé and I said, "We are going to do this!" We ran a little faster, passed a bunch of people and crossed that finish line!
I have never been prouder of myself.
I struggle with the fear of the unknown. Training on loops I knew the exact distance of and that also had scenery was helpful, but it also hurt me.
Going into this race having no idea what to expect only added fuel to my anxiety fire.
But, I never gave up. I signed up for this race, and I went in to finish. I hit a few roadblocks along the way and fought the anxiety demons in my head, but with the support of the best running partner and my family, I crossed that finish line.
Despite my swearing off every doing this run again at mile 7, it only took a few moments after the finish line for me to be ready to sign up again (and possibly complete a half marathon).
Now that I know what to expect and know I can do it both physically and mentally, I feel like I can accomplish anything.
Anxiety can make reaching goals difficult; it can cause you to only focus on the negatives. But, when you push through and accomplish that goal, you are ready to keep crossing more and more off your list.
Anxiety may push you around, but you are always able to push back harder.