Web Editor @KaraDeschenes reveals how she went from racing grinch to happy runner with one conscious decision.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
I have a confession to make: I am an angry runner. Actually, let me clarify: I am an angry racer. Don’t get me wrong – I love running, but somewhere along the way – I turned into a racing grinch. I’m not quite sure how it all began or where my angst is rooted, but there’s no doubt – if you catch me mid-race, I will most likely have a laundry list of annoyances. Whether my GPS watch doesn’t display the exact distance of the course (and yes, I understand that has to do with running perfect tangents, but I can’t reason with my angry mind at the time) or the water isn’t ice cold at the water stops – nothing is off limits from setting my mind on fire during a race. Typically I start off upset with extraneous things, but eventually the anger spirals into negative self talk. By the end of a race I’ve become my own worse enemy, irritated over not achieving negative splits or watching a PR slip through my fingers because I walked through a water stop. No matter the race, I always run angry…until a month ago.
Less than 30 days ago, I stood at the start line of one of my favorite annual half marathons. A little undertrained, I waited for the start gun with no expectations of achieving a new PR. I looked around at the runners surrounding me and made a pledge to myself that this race would be different. No more anger. I didn’t have a set plan for exterminating my old habit. I simply set out to focus on the positive. Determined to “enjoy the journey” (as I often preach to others, though rarely follow my own advice), I set out to run 13.1 miles with one goal: leave the angry thoughts behind.
As I ran the race I made a conscious decision to focus on the reasons I love running and racing. I looked around at my fellow racers and felt honored to be part of a community that I truly adore. I glanced at the spectators (including the heart-melting 4-legged fans lining the sidewalks with wagging tails) anxiously awaiting their loved ones as they cheered loudly for all who ran by. I thanked the hardworking volunteers who patiently handed out water. I gazed down at my legs and felt grateful for the ability to run the course. I did my best to savor every moment of the race and something amazing happened along the way – I finished the race faster than I expected and felt better than ever crossing the finish line. Yes, my GPS was still slightly off and the water wasn’t freezing cold, but I didn’t even notice either of the usual anger “triggers” because I was so consumed with enjoying my run. I fell in love with racing again because of one small mind-shift.
I’m not a psychologist or sports therapist by any means, but I am a runner who truly loves the sport. In my quest to constantly be better and run faster, I lost myself and the appreciation for why I love racing. I became so consumed with running better at each race I lined up for, that when things didn’t go my way I became angry at anything and everything, including myself. By giving myself permission to enjoy the race and focus on the positive, I found the spark again (and dropped the nasty habit of beating myself up!).
I’m thrilled to report that I’ve run two more races since my revelation and neither resulted in anger rearing its ugly head. I may not be completely out of the woods and can’t promise I’ll never race mad again, but for now I’m proud to say I was an angry racer who changed her ways to run happy.
Are you an angry runner or do you always race happy? Let me know here or tweet me @KaraDeschenes!