Fear and loathing in Arizona

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” – Plato

Leah Hennel – Calgary Herald

That said, it’s fair to say I’m scared shitless. Not just because of the heavy goals I’ve burdened myself with but mostly cuz this is uncharted territory for me. The longest duration I’ve spent running to date is 24 hours; in Glendale, AZ over the turn of the year I’ll be tripling that to a whopping 72 hours. I think I peed my pants a bit just writing that. The Across the Years Ultra Marathon (ATY) is host to runners from around the globe running 24, 48, 72hr and 6 day time duration’s. The spotlight on the 6 day runners as they rack up a stupid amount of miles over one day short of a week. Essentially I’ll be running the half marathon equivalent of the multi-day ultra events. Thinking of it in that context will put me at ease, maybe…not really, not at all…crap this is gonna hurt like hell! The thing I have going for me is I think I’ll be really good at this multi-day running thingamabob. I mean, I didn’t suck at the 24 hour race and looking around me at other runners during my last 24 hour race I don’t think I was hurting as bad as they were. So with seven weeks to go before the dance I want to take this time to discus the good, the bad, and the downright ugly sides of fear.

Fear of the unknown is probably the most common reason why runners don’t push past their familiar borders to attempt new feats. The blame is normally cast on time restraints, other commitments and other socially acceptable reasons that are easy to discuss with others whereas if the reason for not signing up for your first marathon was fear it would most likely be frowned upon and make you look weak. We all have fear, it has its place in our sport.

Two runners named Mary and Jill both have run a number of marathons and both share the desire to extend themselves and attempt a 50 mile ultra marathon. They have heard the same stories told in their running group on struggles of ultra racing. At 16 weeks before the race they decide to sign up for an ultra. The fear sets in. They read the same web sites, blogs and pretty much anything else they can gather to get advice on how to do this. Mary processes this fear and decides to get to work and let fear be the fuel to drive her through training. Jill struggles to adapt to her fears and quickly finds herself falling behind on training that is now fueled by self doubt. With 5 weeks to go before the race Mary worries about the enormity of this task she is about to embark on so she dials in her training. Jill’s fear is coupled with the realities of being under trained as the day approaches and curbs what’s left of her deflated enthusiasm, making it all too easy to repeatedly hit the snooze button thus shortening her much needed long runs. On race day Mary uses her fear throughout the day to propel her and surprises herself with a podium finish in her age group. Jill’s day never happened. The fear of the pain and suffering due to her lack of fitness was all she needed to not drive out to the race start. Mary goes on to run many 50 mile races and one day completes a 100 mile ultra marathon. Jill upset, vows to steer clear of disappointment and never entertain a silly idea like that ever again. Both Mary and Jill had a similar fear but what they did with it ended very differently. When fear is present so is the coward and the courageous. Do you let fear hold you back or do you use it to push you further?
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Some falter, some succeed. Many crumble at first thought while a few soar higher than first dreamed possible. I’m sure someone much smarter than I could give a synopsis of the inner workings of the mind and why we all seem to adapt to fear differently.

At my first 72 hour on Dec. 29- Jan. 1 there are many specific things I could fixate on that should scare my socks off but I must say the biggest fear is the fear of not having reaching the true limits I know I am capable of.

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