Last weekend I was walking into a transition at a local race and I overheard a common exchange. One athlete asked the other how she was feeling and the other answered her back, “I’m scared to death!” So many times I have heard this expressed — and often in exactly those words. I can almost feel the pounding heart and the sweaty skin.
These words “I’m scared to death” have real power. Of course, when we say them we’re not actually scared “to death.” It’s not as if Jaws is about to surface beneath us and bite our legs off or Jason is going to jump out from behind a tree with an ax and end our races with a mortal blow. (Although these days with the Zombie runs and other themed races, it could happen!) But the power of these words tells a lot about what’s going on in the mind.
“Scared to death” is an expression of fear. If you look it up in the dictionary the definition is “extremely scared.” The word “scared” itself means, “thrown into or being in a state of fear, fright, or panic.” The question is not whether we are actually scared before a race — as many people actually are — but rather do we really want to be in a “state of panic or fright” before a race? The answer, of course, is no.
What we want to be is control of our emotions, thinking clearly, and ready to do what we have trained to do. Achieving a clear head is not so easy when we’re seeing spots with fright.
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