The inner battle of confidence over fear...REAL TALK...BE A LION)
Fear in sports is something not talked about enough. It often gets pushed to the side and repressed because as soon as it's mentioned emotions we want to keep hidden come to the surface. Everyone has his or her reasons, but no one wants to feel fear or even address its existence. Instead, we are told to be tough and to just get over it. But I want to dive a little deeper into fear within the context of running. The only way to overcome what scares us is to face it.
Through many years of running, I've learned that being real with and embracing your emotions is the only way to conquer them. I dedicated my life, time, and energy to this sport. I was consumed with the idea of being great. But running isn't for the weak of heart. It can and will tear you apart, but also lift you up and bring unabashed happiness. But it takes unrelenting dedication to make your goals a reality and a patient heart to endure the training or to work through an injury.
But one of the most important ways to overcome fear is to adopt the mentality of having: "the spirit of a steadfast lion." The lion is the king of the jungle and has come to represent the ideals of courage and bravery. But one must also be steadfast. Steadfastness is being unwavering in a mission or task, being committed. These ideals are equally important in shaping, not only a successful distance runner, but also a successful person. Embracing these ideas of steadfastness and courage allows you to be brave on competition day, yet patient during injury or hardship. My life in running has been shaped by moments of fear and confidence. I've found specific keys or things to remember, to keep fear from hindering my life.
"Put your trust in desire more than in your training"
During my senior year of high school heading into the state cross country meet my fitness was at an all time high. I was getting faster and more confident each week. Finally, at the state meet, going around the final turn of the candy cane pole of Detweiller Park my coach yelled for me to "reach for the gear not on the bike!" He wanted me to believe, in that moment that I could do something amazing. I ended up getting fourth and I can't help but still be slightly disappointed that I never reached for something further. I learned that trusting in training is not the key to racing. Now don't get me wrong, I knew my training had gotten me to the point of fitness where I was ready to go. But training is not what separates athletes; it's their willpower and their passion to compete. This holds true at the Division 1 level as well. Training is what gets you to the race, but passion is what separates you when it's close.
Fear or nerves do not make you weak or unprepared for this moment. These emotions just show how much you love this sport, your teammates, and competing. But at the end of the day, it is just a sport. When your career is finally done you won't care what time or place you got. What you'll remember are the friends you made and how you competed during every opportunity you had. Addressing fear brings it to light and makes you realize that it can't stop you from achieving what's on your heart.
"Honor the opportunity...you don't have time to fear!"
Just running, not even racing, is a blessing. There are so many people who have things in their life that don't allow them this opportunity. It's important to keep in mind how fortunate we are to compete and train. It doesn't matter how good you are or what times you run. You run because you love it. Embrace the sport for everything it is and don't forget that some people would love to be able to do the same.
Fear is something that intends to hinder us from accomplishing our goals. It can make us second-guess what we know we're capable of. It wants us to give up. Fear can hinder joy and make moments of success disappear. But that's when you need to have courage. Refusing to quit when things get tough, maintaining patience during an injury: that's bravery. Passion is what takes you to the next level in running, but embracing fear and going beyond it is what leads to true success.
For those heading into their state meet this weekend, take time to remember what makes you strong and passionate in this sport. Take time to look around the starting line and at this moment and how much you worked for this. Take confidence in what makes you a steadfast lion...and then go race all out!
"The devil whispered in my ear, you're not strong enough to withstand the storm. Today I whispered in the devil's ear I am the storm."