When I meet athletes at an event, many times I am meeting first timers. I ask how they are feeling and fairly frequently the words “nervous” or “anxious” pop out of their mouths. I can relate, obviously. But I tell them these are good feelings to have. These feelings usually keep them from doing something stupid in the last few days before a big race. I also think they are extremely important for races of a longer nature. For example, with the marathon, it doesn’t matter how many races you run, if you do not respect the distance, chances are high it will not respect you either. You will be left to shuffle along, praying for the finish line, only to collapse in a heap at the end if you are lucky enough to make it.
This past weekend was my 130th lifetime marathon. Running for the Vermont Beef Council I realized on the starting line that I had not run a marathon in 50 days. I had only gone that long between marathons 14 times previously. I can usually keep fears and thoughts of under-preparedness away by simply toeing the line for the marathon on a fairly frequent basis. Granted in those 50 days I had done two triathlons, a duathlon, a half marathon and a 10k (personal best, mind you) but my mileage was way down. I wasn’t anywhere close to being ready for a marathon, or at least as ready as I would like. I felt a little lump in my throat. Nerves. They were striking me.
But I knew I was on familiar ground. If I used my head, I could harness the nervousness and use the energy to my advantage. The trepidation I felt was not something to be feared. It told me I knew what was in front of me was going to make me tired, sore and probably quite thirsty. These were all things I had experienced and knew were on their way. Suddenly, I felt relaxed. Acquiescing to the fact that my next three hours were going to include about every emotion one can have suddenly made everything so much easier to swallow.
A nice warm glow came over me. My miles for 2011 might be at the lowest for any year since I have been keeping track, but this just meant that they were fresher than ever. My goal was to run a sub-3 hour marathon so I could tick Vermont off the states I needed to do that for. I had eaten a hearty steak for my usual pre-race meal so that was set. My mind was where I needed to be. All I had to do was go run.