MDS 2015: Pre-race nerves

30ème Sultan Marathon des Sables - Journey to the Sahara, 2015

“I’m trying to stay as calm as possible and focus one day at a time, but when reality sets in, I feel everything: anxiety, excitement, nerves, pressure and joy.” – Shawn Johnson (Olympic Gymnast)

I always get nervous before a race. Always. Without fail my palms will sweat, my thoughts race around my head, I’ll feel about a thousand phantom pains and then, without fail, as soon as I arrive at the event area I’m fine! I calm down, I smile and I warm-up just like everybody else but with the Marathon des Sables it’s a little bit different! I know the race is almost ten months away and I know the basic expectation is to run and power hike across the southern Sahara desert over six days and I know that I have plenty of time to train for this and to achieve my goals. However, I still seem to find myself waking up once or twice a week with the feeling I get pre-race – the nerves are manifesting themselves early on it seems! Sometimes I wake up wondering what the hell I’m doing, why the hell have a signed up for a multi-stage, multi-day race when I am still yet to run above marathon distance?

I wonder how it has come to pass that I’m going to run my first ultramarathon in August as part of my preparation for the Frankfurt marathon in October and then I wonder am I overdoing it?! I have definitely been finding it difficult to reconcile the fact that my 2014 A-Race has become just a precursor to my Bucket List A-Race – a mere training event if you will! My first big city IAAF Gold Label marathon, on a course designed for fast running and PR setting and my birthday present to myself seems to have faded in stature somewhat since I confirmed my place on the Marathon des Sables. One thing I can say that although the stature may have faded the excitement about running a marathon on my actual birthday is still very much in evidence!

Sometimes I wonder if I haven’t set the bar a little too high for myself in terms of where I’d like to finish at the Marathon des Sables – granted, I have A and B goals which I have stated here on the blog and elsewhere but I also have my back-up C plan which I really cannot bring myself to share right now. Nobody knows the C plan apart from me! The one plan I will share is my emergency back-up D plan because I am sure everyone has the same idea: just finish!

I think all of these worries and nerves manifesting themselves early on are good signs though. It means I am serious about this, I know this is what I want. I am just scared because this is the biggest, toughest and probably most expensive challenge I’ve ever set for myself and I am not in the business of giving up. I cannot think of anytime in the past where I have had the opportunity to live a dream, to realise a lofty ambition or to really test myself physically and mentally in such a way that I might break myself a little bit! I think if I wasn’t mulling over things, constantly making notes and trying to obtain the knowledge to put my mind at ease and, instead, just brushing over the facts in a nonchalant manner then those closest to me would have intervened. Denial is not my style and as I began to write this post I realised that I am acting totally in character when it comes to undertaking this task: gather information, analyse, interpret, plan, act. As I said to a fellow MDS 2015 hopeful, I know that I have set myself a huge challenge but I have always liked to set the bar high and more often than not I have found this strategy has helped me to focus and work harder. The higher the bar, the more you can achieve as you strive to get up and over it!

Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success. – Swami Vivekananda

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