Running From Fear

I find myself running from fear. Avoiding my fears like the plague. I think this is pretty natural…. I mean, isn’t that why they are fears to begin with?

Now let me share my biggest secret with you all.

I am afraid of death.

Whew, that felt good to say.

Over the past few months, I’ve become more comfortable with my thoughts and feelings. And with this growth, I’ve been able to reframe my feelings towards death. I’ve even practiced some death meditations, which if you haven’t done so yourself, I highly encourage them. So while sitting around, doing what the mind does so well, think, I came to the realization of something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.

As many of you know, I have been blessed with some wonderful memories from running. From meeting new people, testing my limits, to exploring this beautiful country on some trails that are only accessible one way, on foot. But there has always been one thing that I’ve felt has held me back. And that has been my biggest fear. Death.

I have had the pleasure of reading some wonderful running books over the years, talking about amazing feats that I’ve always dreamed of doing. Only to be held back by this crippling fear and anxiety around death. So how can I love something so much, yet be so afraid of it at the same time? It’s this question that I think drew me to running in the first place.

See, with running, there’s this sense that you are on death’s door at any given moment. Like your heart will just quit beating because it’s just done. Pushing your body’s to the edge of its limits, seeing just how far it can go. Running is not for the faint of heart, trust me. But I think it’s this fear that pushes me to keep trying. Like if I keep running, I can begin to break down these walls of fear, slowly but surely. With this gentle reframe, I began pushing myself. I began training like I had never trained before. Running further and smarter than I ever had.

Then something suddenly changed. Last year I completed the furthest distance race I have ever done. 4 and a half hours of what I can only consider as hell. Running in the dead heat of summer, through rolling hills and mountainous farm land… oh and prickly bushes and rocks that make you think twice about turning this run into a walk. As I finished the race, my mind had officially felt crushed. I had felt defeated. Like I had lost a loved one. My love for running turned to hatred. This was a new feeling for me.

Now leading up to this race, I had been working on a pretty big running challenge. My “run 1 mile each day for 1 year” challenge, no matter what I was doing. Drive 16 hours home in one day, get home at 8pm, 110 degrees and smoky outside. No problem. Strap the shoes on and go. It all started the day the world shut down for Covid, I sat down and gave myself this challenge. Hell, what else was I going to do? I had just lost my job, so exercise was my way of staying sane. I don’t remember how far it went, but it was something like 400 plus days, with many of them tracking a lot more than the minimum 1 mile required.

Over the course of that challenge, I felt all sorts of feelings. But as it came to an end, what had always been a love for running, was slowly feeling more like a job. I knew right then and there the streak would end, and I needed to get my love back. I got rid of my watch and Strava profile and began running just for the love of running again. Soon, I started feeling better, but the love didn’t last long. And the fear slowly began to creep back in.

Those feelings of anxiety and fear of the unknown soon took residence in my mind. Oh no I thought! Perfect timing just before the biggest race of my life! Waking up the morning of the race, I did my pre-race ritual, which usually consisted of peanut butter banana toast, a nice BM, and wrote in my journal, “go fuck shit up, YOU GOT THIS!” Well, I did fuck shit up. I finished the race. But rather than the usual feelings of joy and exhuberation, I felt feelings of apathy and loss. I was feeling confused. Crushed really. Now, I’m not sure if my current mental health status had any effect on these feelings, but I’d take a guess it’s not coincidence.

Since that race, I haven’t been able to garner that same love for running and training like I used to have. And I’m learning to accept that. I’m becoming more okay with this. I think in the past I had let running define me, rather than me defining my running. I should read my Strava handle more often 🙂 So while I am working to regain that love again, I am also trying to be more mindful of my feelings towards death. Becoming aware of those instances when I am running where my mind shifts to feelings of anxiety. And as I continue reframing my thoughts around death, perhaps those running goals I have always dreamed of will start becoming a reality.

Dreamers can dream 🙂

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