This week is National Face Your Fears week and, knowing this, I’ve turned to thinking about what my biggest running fears are.
Not much is supposed to faze me now. Incomprehensibly vast distances, ridiculous course profiles that look more like an ECG and the thought of running in conditions that veer between tropical and Saharan strangely don’t have much of an effect on me in terms of fear.
Part of this may be because I’ve been in those situations previously and know how to mentally cope with them. [If completely blocking out all the memory of pain and suffering is, indeed, a legitimate coping mechanism].
No. For me, my biggest fear, the one that I struggle to overcome is much more pedestrian than that: it’s the fear of having to run fast.
Now ‘fast’ is a subjective term. What is a dead-out sprint to me is probably a gentle jog to others, so what I believe I’m really saying here is my fear is having to run faster than the last time I was made to run fast. Notice the use of my language just then – I wasn’t even aware I’d written that until I read it back. I wrote ‘the last time I was MADE to run fast’. As if it wasn’t a choice.
The last time I notched up some serious and consistent speedwork was training for the MdS. As part of my training plan formulated by MdS vet Rory Coleman, I had to run six miles on a Thursday as quickly as I could, improving my time each week. The results were stunning. I knocked off a huge amount of time as the weeks rolled on. The problem was I absolutely hated it.
I tried to come up with excuses to myself to get out of doing it each week – “oh, look at the weather”, “the traffic is too heavy (I had to cross roads)”, “I’m not feeling that well”… Fortunately, the threat of dying in the desert was strong enough to motivate me each and every time. But I hated it, every last, long painful second.
I actually preferred the back-to-back 30 milers at the weekends.
I imagine I’m just saying what is articulated in the mind of every runner who needs to do speedwork. I can’t imagine anyone loving it. Particularly if they’re working as hard as they should be, which usually means bent over desperately trying to breath and trying not to be sick for 10 minutes after you’ve finished.
The reality is now I’ve got to get back on it. With the South Downs Way 100 hoving into view next year and an under-24 hour target in my sights, it’s a necessity. It really is time to face my fears.
Or just man up. (Do the kids still say that?)
To see whether I was alone in my fears, I thought I’d reach out on twitter and ask the question:
What is YOUR biggest running fear?
I’ve posted some of the responses to highlight what other runners fear. It does seems speed is a common one:
@UltrarunnerJody Ditto. After being injured for a length of time. Trying to get speed back is hard…and hurts like hell
— Ian Chitson (@runningokinuk) October 21, 2013
The flipside of the speed fear, of course, is being too slow or not fast enough:
— Mitch Hawkins (@trainandscoff) October 21, 2013
And of course there’s the ultimate fear (I’m talking the former, rather than the latter here!) that needs to be mentioned:
And some non-speed related fears on animals, getting back into training and facing your next challenge:
— Lesley Boniface (@Lilbeeloo67) October 21, 2013
Next marathon…! Yours? RT @UltrarunnerJody: It’s national Face Your Fears week. What’s the biggest running fear that YOU need to face?
— Veggie Runners (@VeggieRunnersUK) October 22, 2013