Reaction Time

October 12, 2010 at 9:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Training Calls for: 3 miles (check!)

Miles Run So Far: 267.2

Days Left: 5 (deep breaths…deep breaths…)

Confession time:

I had a panic attack yesterday thinking about the marathon.

I’m normally a very low-key, low-stress person (stop smirking, Sam) who does not get ruffled by future things.  I did not have a panic attack about any of these past majorly-life-changing events: graduating from college, moving several states away to take a job where I knew no one, getting married, telling my first boss I quit, starting a new career, going back to school, buying our first car, buying our first house.  Not a single panic attack in any of those segments of life.  But on a random Monday, less than a week away from 26.2 miles, my heart started to pound uncontrollably.

I guess there’s a first time for everything.

I was scoping out the marathon website to email information to my parents when everything started to overwhelm me.

That route on the map looks incredibly long….Wait, how many water stations are there?…Parking is going to be a nightmare….Quick, check the weather….What am I going to wear?

Pretty soon, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and I actually had to go in my office, close the door and put my head down on my desk.

Breathe.  Deep breaths.  In and out.  In and out.  Stop.  Freaking.  Out.

I may have joked about hyperventilating into a paper bag in the past, but I kind of get how that little piece of grocery garb could be clutch in a situation like this.

When I told my sister about my little “episode”, she asked: “what exactly are you worrying about?”

Good question.  I have no idea.

And then it kind of struck me how silly the whole thing was.  If I don’t know what I’m specifically worrying about, then there’s nothing to worry about.  I have trained for more than four months for this one event and while it makes me nervous, there isn’t anything to worry about.

What if I can’t find my groove and I struggle?  Well, I know how that feels, I dealt with it during our 18 miler and I overcame it.  I showed it who’s boss.

What if I wear the wrong thing and overheat?  I’ve been testing outfits for two weeks and if I make a boo-boo, I’ll ditch the clothes.  They’re donated to the needy anyway.  No biggie.

What if I surprise myself and it feels effortless?  Um, keep running, goofball.  Just like you did when you ran half the 20 mile run without stopping.

It all comes down to reaction time.  Not reaction time as in the ever-inadequate “hey look out!” before a softball smacks you in the face, but reaction time as in you have to wait until the time to react.

I can’t run a marathon ahead of time just so I can feel prepared and less scared and know how I’m going to handle every little curveball or pitfall.  I’m going to have to react when the time comes.  It isn’t here yet, so no sense in getting my running shorts in a bunch over nothing.  My training has shown me that I can not only run the distance, but I have learned to react well to just about anything.

I’m always surprised by how much running mirrors life.  Maybe it’s because over the past year I’ve become a devout discipline of Saint Hal Higdon, maybe because running gives you an incredible amount of peaceful time for self-reflection.  Whatever the reason, you can’t tell me that this whole theory of reaction time isn’t applicable to life in general.

Wait until the time comes to react.  Don’t bother with the what ifs.  Otherwise, you’re wasting energy having a panic attack in your office with the lights off wondering who will explain to your husband that it was the mental preparation for the marathon that killed you, not the actual physical exertion.

Someone sent me an email recently and included in their signature line was the quote, “The miracle isn’t that you finished.  The miracle is that you had the courage to start.”

Amen to that.  The hard part is over.  If I have to crawl across that finish line, it doesn’t matter.  I had the courage to start.  I’ll just take whatever comes my way and rely on some well-prepared reaction time to deal with it.

🙂

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