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Fear, race, goals and my mind

Situation: 5am- Warming-up for a marathon at a park close to the START line.

I usually warm up on my own. But here is a popular marathon in the city and there is ‘Zumba’ which is supposed to be the warm up to the race. I find myself hardly being able to focus on the song and the moves, as it is my first 10K. After 2-3years of running as a recreation I finally decide to run a 10K before stepping into the bigger bracket.

I had no expectations with my time since it was my first. There were so many people who were going crazy at this warm-up. Thoughts start clouding my mind “What if my ankle gives way?”

It’s a fear Ive been carrying throughout my life – Ankle injury! I have a clear memory as a 3 year old, going to the doctor because I would twist my right ankle very often. That has stayed till date- the fear.

Defeatist Marathon- Fear that generate cognitive anxiety

Relating this to the previous blog, the cusp catastrophe model also includes the Cognitive Anxiety. Cognitive anxiety is nothing but worry, fear stemming from thoughts or beliefs.

“When cognitive anxiety is high, increased levels of physiological arousal lead to a catastrophic drop in athletic performance.”

What this means is- when I had a stream of thoughts around re-injury, my cognitive anxiety was high. This in turn increased my physiological arousal and I started sweating, increased my heart rate- especially when I was at the start line and when there were a few seconds left for the race to start.

The result of this was:

  1. Loss of focus

  2. Energy wastage in irrelevant thought- like injuring my ankle

  3. Combination of the first two points- loss of confidence in all the training/ daily runs I had in the 3 last months.

So what does this mean?

  1. Mentally training myself while training for a race?

  2. Setting goals –performance wise as well as reducing the fear of re-injury by repeating it to myself again and again?

  3. How to be relaxed before a race?

Now that you’ve seen two common situations in our blogs and how we linked it to a model, the next agenda is to understand what we psychologists will do to help you with these demands of endurance running.

Let’s look into pre-race rituals and relaxation techniques in our next blog post.

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