Facing My Demons

March 26, 2008

Last night I went to the track to face my running demons.  On the track I am out of my element.  I don’t know the etiquette, I don’t know which direction you’re supposed to run.  I don’t know if people will yell at me if I alternate directions like my workout tells me to do.  I am a fish out of water, so to speak.

I arrived at the track and did the prescribed warmup.  My scheduled workout was nothing earth-shattering – 4 x 800 – but any run on the track is enough to give me a belly ache just thinking about it.  My directions were to hold back at first and progressively let loose with each 800.  Well, you don’t have to tell me twice to hold back on the track!

I put on my racing flats.  This is the first time I have run in racing flats on the track.  Right away I feel different.  Fast.  I can feel the bumps in the track through my shoes.  I start running and the sound of my shoes on the track surface makes me smile.  I am feeling like the real thing.  But fear is everywhere around me and the words “hold back” are echoing in my head.  I recognize the girl that I am.  She is afraid.  She does not think she is a runner.  She has a million really good reasons why she should not be a good runner.  She is convincing and she is holding back.

I look at my time.  It means nothing to me.  I have nothing to compare it with.  I am ‘holding back’ girl and I think that is probably a fine pace. 

Then I go for #2.  A little faster.  A little harder.  I am still holding back.  I am still afraid.  The fear is like an insulator that keeps all my energy contained.  I look at my watch.  20 seconds faster than the first one.  Again, this means very little to me but I can see where this is going.  I am starting to formulate a number that would be nice to see on my watch.  Maybe I am creating a goal.

I take off on #3.  I let rip a little more.  I feel pain.  I hear a cacophony of voices inside my head.  The negatives and the positives.  My voice shouting out insults and the voices of Marit, Beth, and Elizabeth shouting out challenges and encouragement.  A little of that protective insulation falls off.  I feel a change taking place.  I look at my watch.  Another 10 seconds faster.  Now I am 10 seconds from my new goal.  I can taste it and imagine it.  But there is still the voice of doubt that says “don’t get your hopes up – you might not be all that”.  I try to silence the voice.  I am talking to myself on the track.  In public.  I don’t care.  I want to be somebody else.  I want to be me.

I take a deep breath and run like I have never run before.  At the bend I realize I have been holding my breath.  I let the air out of my lungs and keep moving as fast as I can.  I challenge myself to puke.  I challenge myself to blow up.  I say it over and over and over again into the silence: “you are fast, you are strong, you are fast, you are strong”.  There is nothing in my head but those words repeating over and over again to the rhythm of my fast-moving legs.  I think I will explode.  There is a quiet inside of me that I don’t recognize.  The girl of fear is fading away.  I have no peripheral vision.  It is like I am in a tunnel with no thoughts except a rhythmic mantra which is thundering in my ears.  I do not notice the force of the wind.  I do not feel the pain in my legs.  And I know I am becoming somebody.  Someone who is a runner.  I push the button on my watch and fall to the ground.  Nine seconds.  Not the ten I wanted.  Nine.  But I am smiling on the ground in a heap.

By the time I stand up, she is back.  The girl of fear.  She is terrified.  She wonders if these times are very slow.  She wonders if she gave it all and it wasn’t enough.  She wonders if her lifelong dream has been shattered by the realization that she is not as fast as she needs to be in the place where it counts.  The girl of fear drives home and tries to stay positive.  She wants to cry.  She wants to stay around.  She thinks I need her to protect me.  And I allow her to hang around for the evening, making me feel awful.  After all, look how much failure she has protected me from in my lifetime!  She has done such an amazing job of keeping me from becoming who I want to be.  But I’m not enjoying her company as much any more.  I think she’s kinda lame.  And whenever I get a taste of life without her, I think it’s time to let her go.  But of course, that is the hard part.

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4 Responses to “Facing My Demons”

  1. Beth Says:

    Way to go Ness!! Little by little you will become the runner you want to be. Just keep pushing through and you will get there!! I know you will! And remember that we all have that sport where we feel out of place and like we don’t know what we’re doing. Taking on the fears of “that sport” is what will get us to where we want to go! Great job again!


  2. Ness! What a great job and a great post! You really faced your fears and it sounds as if you did AN AWESOME job out there! The track is tough; it does not lie and it is unforgiving…but once you respect it (like you did today) then you will become the RUNNER you know you can! Lots of us on the track yesterday – we should have had a party! 😉 Nice job!

  3. alili Says:

    Wow! Way to go. 800s are never easy and only RUNNERS do them…which of course means that you are a runner. A real one:)

  4. marit c-l Says:

    Brilliant.

    Now – you know your fear. And you have taken the next step. You – my dear – can, are, and will do it. Each step you take, each stride you run – you are becoming more of the runner and less and less of the fear-filled athlete. Recognize your fear, and then turn it into something else.

    Make this challenge an opportunity.

    This is your opportunity. And I can’t wait to see how well you do.

    Because you will. I believe in you. And you should too.


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