Go OutsideRace Day Dreams

Race Day Dreams

It’s happening again. I’m leading the race, feeling strong and confident. Suddenly the course takes an unexpected turn, into a building. This seems odd but I continue on, following the course markings up and down staircases, through narrow halls and dimly lit corridors. It’s a challenge to maintain my pace through the twists and turns but I continue to press onward, gradually realizing that not only have the course markings vanished, but that my competitors seem to have disappeared as well.

I begin to panic, certain that I have taken a wrong turn and blown my lead. With relief, I spot some people up ahead – surely they can reassure me that I am still on course and will point me in the right direction. When I approach them, however, they seem to know nothing about the route – or even that a race is taking place. My urgent questions are met with blank stares so I continue to make my way through this building that is becoming more mazelike by the minute. My dream of a big victory has vanished along with the course itself and I find myself alone and lost.

Eventually my heavy breathing wakes me and I realize this has all been a nightmare – a familiar one at that. Yes, it’s that time again. A big race is approaching and my unconscious fears are making themselves known. Talking with other runners, I realize that these dreams are not uncommon. Turns out many of us dream about getting lost, running into buildings, being in the port-a-john when the starting gun fires. How about the classic looking down and realizing that you are running barefoot – or worse yet, naked? Not generally a good thing unless you’re competing in a clothing-optional event.

My guess is that these fears are related to classic performance anxiety. We all tend to question our preparedness before a big race, and in our dreams we are likely to blow things way out of proportion. Maybe in a way they help us to prepare for worst-case scenarios on race day. After all, whatever happens in this upcoming competition, I know it can’t be worse than my nightmares – and it’s not likely to involve any insane indoor running.

Still, nightmares of any sort are no fun, so I try to figure out how to rid myself of these pre-race jitters. Positive imagery, self-affirmations, visualizing myself running strong and fast. All of that helps, but in the end, I think what I might need to do is practice some indoor running – up the stairs, through mysterious winding corridors, searching for hidden course markings and passing uncooperative spectators. That way, when this upcoming race takes an unexpected turn, I’ll be ready.

Places to Go, Things to See: