At some point in the days just before a race, someone is bound to ask me, “So, are you ready?” I never know how to answer that. If I say “No,” I sound like an idiot. If I say “Yes,” I sound over-confident. If I say “I don’t know,” I just sound lame.
Anyway, none of those answers is quite right. The truth is that each race is an absolute unknown for me. Sure, I train. Sure, I pay attention to what I eat and how I sleep. Sure, I do the requisite stretching. And heaven knows I pore over weather forecasts to see what it’s going to be like on race day. But nothing I do ever really prepares me for running the distance required.
The issue isn’t actually physical. With a certain amount of training, almost anyone can run almost any distance, within reason. Running a marathon with only a few weeks of training may make for a slow race and probably a painful one, but it’s doable. Running lesser distances is even more doable, and requires even less training. So, if the question is “Is your body ready for the race?”, my answer is almost always “Yes.”
What’s going on in my head is a different matter entirely. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m not keen on crowds, noise, or excitement – and races have plenty of all of those. I’m an endorphin person rather than an adrenaline person – but, like everyone else, I get jazzed up in the hours before a race start. Consequently, I often start too fast, pace myself badly, and struggle through some, part, or all of the race. (Or blow up entirely.) At the end of most races, I’ve got the medal, I’ve got a finishing time, and I’ve got mixed feelings. (To be fair, though, I have to admit that some races have me feeling on top of the world.)
After many a race, I tell myself that it’s done, that I’ll probably just run by myself in the future, and leave the races to those who get off on doing them. And then sooner or later, I register for another race (“This one will be different!”), and start the process all over again.
So here I am, with the Mississauga Half Marathon only four days away, and trying to get my head around it. My body’s OK. My feet are OK. I’m registered. I’ve checked out the weather forecasts. So the task is to stay calm, not get excited, and still get into the spirit of the giant street party that the Half will be.
So here’s what I’m doing this week. Running less – shorter distances, some gravel runs, a couple of longer runs (one this past Sunday, another one today). Going barefoot when I take our greyhound for his daily walks. Reading Krishnamurti on being clear and paying attention. Doing some stretching. Being calm and happy. I won’t run on Friday or Saturday, and I’ll try to stay relaxed when I get up on Sunday morning.
I’m trying really hard not to plan too much or think too much about the race itself. I’ve decided to run barefoot and without a watch. I’m going to wear my oldest pair of running shorts. I’m not going to think about my finishing time. This time, I’m going to run my own race. This time, it’s going to be different. 🙂