The sensation in the pit of your stomach the moment you wake up on marathon morning is like no sensation you will ever feel, and if anyone tells you they are just excited they are a big fat liar because that feeling my friends is 100% fear.
It doesn't matter how many marathons you have run the fear still remains, it doesn't matter how well your training has gone, how expensive your running tights are, or how many folks you have cheering you on along the route...we all of us that morning experience the single most terrifying prospect...
That we might not complete it.
The funny thing is, the fear is almost identical to the fear you feel when you actually sign up for you first big race. That sinking feeling that you have just made the biggest mistake of your life and that everyone is going to laugh at even the thought that you think you can do this.
26.2 miles is a long old way to go, trust me I've done it 3 times now and it never gets any easier, in fact I think my fear increases each time, because you know what is to come now...you don't have the luxury of ignorance the second time round.
I decided I wanted to do a marathon long before I could even make it to the top of my road without having to walk. I struggled to walk up a flight of stairs, they didn't make running clothes in my size and I foolishly had no idea that marathons were actually quite hard to get in to. I still to this day do not know what possessed me.
Actually I do.
It was a whole different kind of fear driving that crazy decision.
The fear that if I didn't ever run a marathon I would regret it my whole entire life.
When you stand at the start line of any long distance race there is a moment when the nerves subside, you stop laughing and joking with the people around you and your mind focusses for just a short time at the task which lies ahead.
You realise in a flash that this is all about you. It's not the conscious you, or even the unconscious you talking...somehow its the higher level version of yourself...the place that as humans we so rarely go to...it's reaching out and daring you to be the best version of yourself.
For some athletes this moment happens later on in the race, when they feel like they are flying, like its effortless, like they were born to do this. Some might call this being in the Zone, others might call it being in Flow...I simply call it being in the Know...
The knowing that is of your WHY!!!
My "Why" is very simple...I just don't want to be rubbish at life. I don't want to waste the opportunity I have been given to live a life full of adventure and possibility. I want to inspire others to believe that perhaps they too could do something incredible, challenge the perception that only awesome people do awesome things...no quite often its the rather ordinary folk that do the most remarkable of things...and this is so evident in the case of marathon running.
But back to fear.
We all of us have something in life we are scared of. Spiders, heights, being naked in public, cold calling, the dark, talking in public...trust me I have all of these (sometimes all at once) and despite the fact these fears tend to be something different for different people at the heart of it the thing that drives these anxious thoughts are pretty similar, its that feeling of being out of control or worst of all the feeling of being rejected.
I don't think you ever start a marathon completely and absolutely prepared, confident that you are going to smash it, there's always something you could have done better, a session you could have pushed harder at, or a nutritional tweak you never quite got round to (giving up wine comes to mind), but that is exactly how life is and if you wait for the perfect conditions to attempt the goals you set for yourself you would never get anywhere.
There are so many cheesy, overused metaphors which can be used to draw parallels between marathon running and life, taking things one step at a time, pacing yourself (its a marathon not a sprint after all) be the tortoise and not the hare...but until you've actually run one of these monsters you don't really understand the power of it at all.
So many of us have big dreams that we put on hold while dealing with the crap that is life, oh we'll wait until we are slimmer, richer, less busy, more confident...we will wait until the kids have gone to big school, or we have a more stable job...STOP... shut up and sign up and just get on with moving towards your big fat stupid goal each day, starting from today you fools.
You don't need to know how you are going to run 26.2 miles, you can just start with the point two but of it in the first instance and build from there,
However, the first session of a marathon plan is often the hardest despite being the shortest in distance and with least amount of pressure with regards to speed, its being consistent throughout your training that is the toughest thing of all...you don't need to be good, or fast, or strong...you just have to go and go often...and trust me somehow over time you build in confidence, in strength, in stamina and soon the 5K you struggled to get round 4 months ago becomes your recovery run, the one you pop out to do while the dinners in the oven.
I know its said often and by others far more qualified than me, but facing your fears and doing it as publicly as running a marathon is a sure fast way to grow in a way you never dreamed possible...the miles of training will do things to your mind that you never imagined, and your body might change a bit in the process too.
Whenever things are tough for me in business or more generally in life I have stopped asking "What's the worst that could happen" and instead ask "Whats the absolute best outcome, and how will that make me feel"...I don't give that fear mindset even a moment of my headspace anymore...it only holds me back.
Fear is the sensation that shows me I am heading in the right direction, it shows me that whatever it is I am heading for is worth the time and energy I am putting into it, even if it does feel challenging and uncomfortable.
Knowing that I have been able to cart a body that was designed for comfort not speed around a 26.2 mile distance with thousands of people watching my backside displayed in lycra, with the real possibility of public humiliation...kind of makes me feel like I can do anything...now that really is a scary thought.
These days I am more scared of what success might look like for me than I am the fear of failure, because by the time you get to the start line of any new venture, marathon, business launch, relocation, marriage, divorce...the hard work has already been done.
Be brave and run well my friends...the finish line is closer than you might think
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