My relationship with race starts has evolved over the years.
- My early races (high school) were nerve wracking. I’d spend the day or two before a race trying to psych myself up by listening to my favorite racing songs on repeat. The team would have pre-race pasta dinners. Our coach would encourage us to spend time meditating before the race. We did affirmations. It was all a bit much and left me anxious and stressed by the time I got to the starting line.
- In college and early adulthood, I learned to garner a sense of calm before races, but the uh… physical symptoms of anxiety stayed with me. As tranquil as I feel mentally, my digestive system always seems to be a wreck the day of a race. More often than not, I’m frantically running to the start from my third or fourth restroom visit.
- More recently, I seem to better at getting my mind and body relaxed before a race. I think part of that is in giving up on having any stakes at all attached to my performance. Maybe there’s also a maturity factor.
Throughout this evolution, I’ve found it interesting that any pre-race anxiety always drains away once I’m actually on the line. There’s a nice zen focus that sets in once I enter the coral. I transition from being anxious about racing to being eager to start running. Once the starter sets us off, I’m usually pretty relaxed and happy right away. At the recent Bridle Trails Winter Running Festival I got a cool snapshot of what this actually looks like. I am not used to being at the lead of a race at the start, so this short clip my friend Paul took was a treat (caveat: this was actually the second wave of the start).
On reflection, this start was just about as happy and fun as it looks. Contrary to a lot of my races earlier in life, I didn’t feel any nerves in this one, and I hope to recapture that vibe in future races even if the stakes are higher.