Nerves and Daydreams

My heart rate just accelerated to possibly unhealthy levels. I just found the Twitter feed of the Austin Marathon and checked out the photos from last year’s race.

I have to try not to think about it and what this coming race in February means to me. As I was running Sunday, I started daydreaming about what that day will be like. The song I’ll have blaring from my iPhone earbuds as I roll in, the anxiousness I’ll feel as I walk up to the gear check, waiting in as normal of a line as any other I’ve ever been in, but with a twist that it’ll feel more profound, more significant, than ever. It won’t be just another race; it’ll be my first full marathon (Lord willing of course). I imagine I’ll feel a lot like the way I will when I sit down to write my first article for the New York Times.

Even now I get nervous as I lay on my couch this morning, covered in a comforter with a warm cup of coffee. It’s that “walking up to the starting line” kind of anxious you get as a runner. It’s a lot like the nerves you get as a writer when you sit at a blank screen with your notes strewn out in front of you. It isn’t a fear of failure that scares you or makes you anxious. No, you know you’re prepared for what you’re about to do because you’ve done it all countless times before. You know what kind of pain and struggles you’ll likely go through. Like that moment writer’s block hits with about 400 more words needed, when you’ve already got 400 typed out. Or that moment your calves start to feel tight or your back starts to give a little twinge of pain as if it just wants to reminds you that it’s there, usually at around mile 12. You also know, to some degree, how you’ll overcome each obstacle.

But experience doesn’t take away the nerves for those who compete with themselves like we runners and we writers do. For us, those nerves likely will never cease existing because for us it’s all about pushing ourselves more. If we can run 26 miles, we want to run it faster. If we can write articles and make dry political discussions read like vivid poetry, we want to make our wording more concise or our stories more focused. For us, like coaches in the world of athletics, misery is a part of our passion. We do not do because we can, we do because we can’t not. We don’t run because we like it, we run because we can’t imagine a life without it and all it signifies. For us, true victory can never happen because perfection can never happen. The same is true with writing.

So as I sit here on a chilly Tuesday morning wrapped in a comforter, I find myself turning away from the photos of those who ran last year, and I turn my thoughts inward to my own training. I’ve got 10 weeks left before I see these things all firsthand, through the Canon lenses of my own eyes. 10 weeks before I smell the aromas of Austin and hear the chatter of my herd. Just as it does now, I know it’ll overwhelm me then too.

No need to scare myself to death just yet though. Much better to just focus on where we are, and let those moments of reflection hit us with full force when the time is right.

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