Journal Running

The Birthday Report: Asking the Tough Questions

Some people use the New Year as a time to set resolutions. Although I usually set intentions on the first of each year, my birthday is a more meaningful time of reflection. It is my personal marking of another year on this wondrous planet.

Exactly one month ago, I celebrated my twenty-fourth birthday at Northeast Kingdom Running Camp (NKRC), where for two weeks I was immersed as a yoga teacher and coach to high school runners. It was my third consecutive birthday in Lyndonville, Vermont, among a group of people that have become my run family. The NKRC community originally gave me the “running bug” and encouraged me to join the cross country team at Bates College during my senior year. Since then, the past two years have been filled with diverse running experiences, including interviewing dozens of accomplished runners for the Running On Om podcast, teaching English to young female runners in Ethiopia, joining the Oiselle Volée Team, and coaching high school track. To say that I feel grateful for the people I have met through my running adventures is an understatement.

On my birthday this year, I asked myself, “how is my own running going?” I thought of the blog post I wrote in January stating my running goals for 2015, which included, “Run 15 races” and “PR in the 5k and 10k.” As it turns out, I have not come close to completing any of these goals and instead of feeling ashamed, I am ready to face my personal obstacles and put my New Year’s one word intention of COMPASSION into practice.

In the past year, I have dropped out or not arrived at the starting line of numerous races. I am not proud of this fact and feel embarrassed to share this with all of you. I love running, love training, love coaching, love being a part of the Oiselle Team, and love inspiring people through Running On Om. Yet I am unable to embrace competitive racing, a central facet of the running experience.

I have struggled with race anxiety and panic attacks during numerous races and workouts. When I share this with friends and mentors, many ask why I can’t extend my personal mindfulness practices from yoga and apply them to the racing experience. I understand that this may seem like an obvious path to overcoming my fears, however the solution is not as simple or straight forward as it may seem.

I believe that the more you know, the more you don’t know. As I learn more about the science, history, psychology, technique, physiology, and tactics of running, I have increasingly become more passionate about the sport, while also left paralyzed to perform. As you may have guessed already, I am a perfectionist and when I care deeply about something, I strive to pursue my passions to my highest capacity. At the same time, I am hesitant to label myself as a perfectionist since I find that the word has a lot of negative connotations. I would like to redefine perfectionism to include those who are inspired and committed to attaining their highest potential in whatever endeavor they choose to do. My perfectionism is intrinsically motivated. I am my own harshest critic and recognize that no one cares about the times I run in races. I fear people will consider me self-absorbed and ungrateful for not completing races, when in fact, I care SO much about the sport and community.

What I do know is that I need to reframe my thinking so that I can find joy in the process of workouts and racing. I feel ready for a new challenge, not centered on how many races I can complete in a year or the number of PRs I can set, but instead focused on fostering the compassion and mental strength needed to overcome my perfectionism and race anxiety.

I decided to share this with all of you because you are my run-family: I want to be accountable for not dropping out of races, attending all four November Project Harvard Stadium Wednesdays this September*, and most importantly, because I am ready to be honest about whats going on. As the interviewer of the Running On Om podcast and coach of high school runners, I am comfortable asking others the tough questions. Even though it is frightening to open up and be vulnerable about my own challenges, I am now ready to ask and answer my own questions.

What questions do you need to ask yourself in your own journey? Are you ready to answer and share them with your community ?

*Brogan Graham challenged me to this in ROO Podcast #143 and I am scared sh**less