Anxiety Overload

Today was the Schweizer Fest Road Run, which takes place during our small town’s birthday celebration each year. There is a two-mile race and a six-mile race, which have been tradition for over thirty years. I hadn’t run either in four years. I have major anxiety at times, and running in that race is one of those times. I don’t like running in a race when I know so many people both running and along the sidelines. For some reason, I get physically ill worrying about running this race. I am a little nervous at out-of-town races, but nothing compared to this.

The first year I began running, I ran the two-mile, and did well, but I was so nervous beforehand that it took all of the fun out of it. The next year I decided to try again, and I was going to run the six-mile. Again, I was a nervous wreck. Once I start running, I settle in and do okay, but the prerace ‘jitters’ (more like small earthquakes), again, took away much of the fun. I placed in my age group both of those years, but that wasn’t enough to make me sign up again. Three years ago, I had decided I wouldn’t run, and as it ended up, I couldn’t have run if I wanted. My nephew Stephen died that week, and his funeral was the morning of the race. The Saturday of Schweizer Fest will always hold those memories for me. The following year, I decided it would be best to work the finish line and cheer on my husband. Last year I had knee surgery the week of the race, so I had a perfect excuse to sit out. I took my camera and took finish-line photos of my friends, and I truly had a blast. I posted them on Facebook so that they would have brag photos to share with family and friends. All of the fun without the anxiety.

And then it was suddenly time to decide what to do this year. I am always telling kids at school and friends at the gym to step out of their comfort zones, yet I was hesitant to step out of my own. I was set to run a 5k last weekend, and decided if it went well, I would run this weekend. Well, it went well. I ran my fastest 5k to date, and won my age group. I filled out my form and paid my $20. I thought about backing out every single day this week – including this morning. Yesterday as the day went on, I began to feel the panic. If you’ve never dealt with true panic and anxiety, you cannot understand. I know in my head it makes no sense; it’s just stupid. But my heart and body just react. When I would think about the race, my heart would race and my head would pound. Other than the Schweizer Fest runs, the only other time I have been as nervous was before the Derby Mini Marathon, and that was because it was my first race after my knee surgery, and I didn’t know if I would be able to run it all. I can say that in these situations, I am a bitch. I don’t want to talk to anyone, and really just need to be in a bubble. It’s a wonder Gary will go to races with me.

Although I fell asleep right away last night, I started waking up around 3:00 am (about the time some of my friends were getting home!), and felt restless the remainder of the night. Breanne wanted all of the Everbody’s crew at the gym at 7:30 for a group picture, but I knew I would be in no shape for that (or to be nice to anyone), so I didn’t even attempt to get there. At 7:00 am – one hour before the race – I was still in bed wishing it were storming so I would be able to stay put. My friend Caroline, who knows about my craziness, texted me, and seemed surprised to find I hadn’t even gotten up. My head hurt and my stomach was in knots. I finally got up; I had to get to the bathroom! It was getting serious. As I brushed my teeth, I noticed I was shaking. Seriously. I only had to run two miles; I can run two miles; I was a mess for no good reason. Thank God for Gary’s immense patience (though I think it was beginning to run low). We made it downtown, and I decided to walk a little. Since I hadn’t been out of bed long, I figured I’d better get these old legs moving or the race would be a disaster. I turned on some piano music, and took off by myself.

As I was walking, I was about to cry. Really. Even writing this I know it’s just crazy. I started thinking about Stephen, and finally told myself to suck it up, and that I would run this race for Stephen. Of course, I couldn’t share what was on my mind with anyone because then I would have done the ugly cry, so I sucked it up and headed to the starting line. I gave Gary a good-luck kiss because his race, the six-miler, was starting first. I found my best friends, Jackie and Kassi, and began to settle down. I just wanted to start running because I knew once I did, my anxiety would lessen.

I can honestly say I don’t remember much about the actual race. I couldn’t get my Runkeeper going, so I just put on my music and ran. My goal was 17 minutes, which is an 8:30 pace. For me, that’s super fast. At the one-mile marker, someone yelled out times; mine was 7:48. I immediately thought Shit! I’m going too fast and won’t finish! I slowed down a bit, and ventured on. As I rounded the corner toward the last two blocks, I ran out of steam. I felt like I was going to puke or pass out (If I puked on the street, my junior high students would NEVER let me forget it!). Typically, when I get that close to the finish I can kick it in. Not today. I just wanted to get to the finish. Once I crossed that line, my stomach returned to normal, my head quit hurting, and I felt great. I didn’t know my time, but I knew it was okay. Most runners just ran a race this morning. I almost had a breakdown, and then ran a race.

I really hoped to place in my age group, but when they announced that the group was 40-49 rather than two groups of 40-44 and 45-49, I figured there was no way I would place. I am 47, and was competing against women several years younger. And then they called my name! I placed third out of 53 (many of those were walkers). And as I walked up to get my swag, I heard my junior high kids cheering for me; that made it all worth it! Times were posted this afternoon, and my time was….drumroll….16:09 with an 8:04 pace! So was it worth all the anxiety this morning? Yes, but maybe next year I’ll get counseling in the months leading up to the race. Or maybe I’ll just take pictures.

Congratulations to all of the finishers today! There were a record 840 runners and walkers – pretty exciting for out little town! There are many runners I am super proud of, but must give a shout-out to my husband, Carol Vinson, Mary May, and to Katie Goffinet, who won the two-mile for the second year in a row! And I cannot forget to mention Sarah Goffinet! She did the two-miler, and ran to the finish line. For a kid who had little chance of surviving a terrible car accident nine months ago, she has certainly proven that she is a survivor! Sarah, you make us all so proud! Congratulations!

To all of my running friends (whom I dearly love), thanks for always inspiring me and pushing me!