It is a cold Tuesday morning, a couple of days after Storm Dennis had swept across the UK. A bunch of us are standing on the track at Treborth, shivering as we did a couple of drills before the rain decided to pay us a little visit when we finally finished doing the drills and began to head back to the cars. Luckily for us, we had come in cars and didn’t have to run back in the rain but the cold was enough to make me feel like my hands would fall off and that I was probably going to freeze to death.
My first half-marathon, the Anglesey Half Marathon, is less than two weeks away and I spend most of my time thinking if I am prepared enough and how I needed to get ready for it, both physically and mentally. After having a couple of lectures on how to get ready for it as well as having my preparations for the half-marathon, I thought I might share a few of my thoughts on the subject.
The furthest race I have run is 10km. Back then, it seemed like a feat but now I feel like it isn’t much compared to what I have to do next week. After hearing horror stories of how bad the weather had been these past few years and the possibility of having to climb a hill midway in the race, I feel my knees go weak. There was also the prospect of possibly not being able to make the cutoff point and having to be escorted back, which makes me scared of both not being able to finish it and possibly having a bit of public humiliation. This week’s long run of 10km was tough and I felt like I would collapse during it, making me wonder if I even have the strength to run the half-marathon. The fear of failure is so crippling, it has prevented me from doing so many things throughout my life, and running is no exception.
Fear can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Sometimes fear is there to keep you from doing something stupid, other times it prevents you from doing something that might get you further in life (Martin & Marsch, 2003). I have fear for a lot of things, especially after having a string of failures in the first month of the year beginning; I broke my washing machine door and have to pay £80 for repairs, flunked three internship interviews, failed an important exam and the list goes on. With the half-marathon being something that will be seen by many people and something I have told friends and family I am going to do, I have a fear of letting people down in the process as well as letting myself down.
Even as I have been reminded over and over that I have achieved things in life and to have confidence in them, I can’t help but feel bogged down by the setbacks that had happened to me, which confirms some of my doubts on whether I am capable of achieving things in life. Martin and Debus (1998) found that students who had doubts in their abilities along with having fears of how they were perceived by the crowd performed worse than those who believed in themselves. While it is good to have confidence, however, if a person is overconfident, this may lead to them performing worst in a situation (Moore & Healy, 2008). I’m a sucker for always doubting myself in everything and believing that I am a loser when something goes wrong, sitting in the corner sobbing and wishing I could curl into a ball and disappear, but I cannot do the forever since I am going to graduate soon and get a job.
Well, as my parents have always told me, there’s no use sitting around and moping when I can do something about it. I can self-determine what happens to myself for the next few weeks. Self-determination is a theory where people are motivated to carry out a goal without having an external motivator that is making them do it. According to Gagne and Deci (2005), there are two types of motivation that may bring about self-determination that is important to distinguish; autonomous motivation and controlled motivation. Autonomous motivation is when a person carries out an activity out of their own free will, to experience something new while controlled motivation is when a person feels obliged to carry out an activity.
In my case of running, I chose to take part in Born to Run and am lucky to be one of the 22 lucky souls to have been able to make it onto the program. Therefore, I chose to take part in the module (although I had to leave it to Lady Luck and hoped the random generator program chose me for the program after putting in my module choices) so I am currently motivated to run. However, I could also say I might be obliged to take part in the half-marathon because most of my classmates are doing so and if I didn’t do so, I might have to do another half-marathon on my own and my lecturer had recommended us to do so months before. Whatever kind of motivation is motivating me to run right now, I have to stay focused in making sure I prepare myself for the half marathon, and I think I might have a few ideas to help me with that.
So how do I get myself prepared for the half marathon? Well, one of the things that have been keeping me going this entire time whenever I go running is music, so I’m going to go download some good songs into my iPod and listen to them as I run. Music is a form of dissociative technique, where the person focuses on something else asides from the task they are doing (Masters & Ogles, 1998). Highly motivational music has also been shown to increase performance in exercise, along with helping runners to have more pleasant emotions when running (Lane, Devis & Devonport, 2011).
Whenever I’m on a run and don’t feel like I am getting anywhere and my energy levels are running low, all I need to do is to turn on some music from my favourite anime and imagine myself being whisked off into another world and before I know it, my run is almost over and I feel pumped from having listened to music from epic battle scenes. An interesting study found that inspirational music resulted in participants running slower as compared to when listening to rock or dance music (Tenenbaum et al., 2004), which is funny as I find that inspirational music is the one that keeps me going. However, there have been times where after listening to inspirational music, I did in fact run slower, even losing the motivation to run, so I will try not to use inspirational music unless necessary.
However, listening to music is also said to impair the running experience as a person does not take in their surroundings as much as they should and it might even lead to a person getting involved in accidents when they are not aware of what is going on around them (Grater, 2020). Another technique used by runners, especially elite runners, is the associative technique, where they would focus on all aspects of their body that would affect their performance. However, this would often cause a person to feel more tired as they spend more energy focusing on each aspect of their body and this leads to mental fatigue along with not helping in improving motivation when running (Johnson & Siegel, 1992). This is a little bit of an ongoing debate on whether we should use music when running but since I am not a professional runner and just want to focus on have a good time doing the half marathon, I’m going to stick with my tunes for the timebeing.
Another interesting thing that I am going to use for the half-marathon that was pointed out by my lecturer during our weekly lectures is the idea of us being the protagonist of our own lives. Most of the heroes we know today such as The Avengers, the Jedi from Star Wars and the list goes on, all went through various stages in their lives where they could have just given up but they didn’t. Instead, they persevered, going through all the hardships, working to overcome them until they finally come up top. Heroes inspire us because of the will and determination they show in overcoming adversities and motivate us to become a better person through witnessing their deeds (Kinsella, Ritchie & Igou, 2015). (Veen, 1994) describes a hero as someone who breaks through their barriers and difficulties in life. I may not be a hero or feel I am the main character of my own life, but there are some aspects of heroes that do apply to me in my life that I can relate to my running journey.
For my running journey, the difficulty is having to train for a marathon in such a short amount of time, without much experience and having to overcome barriers of laziness and injuries to finally make it to the finish line. While not all heroes make it in the end, most do and when they finally defeat the villain in their story, their victory is celebrated as they walk home to family and friends who welcome them with open arms. A little fun fact about me; my running heroes are my parents, especially my dad who got me into running as a kid and one day, I vow to be able to run a marathon with him and maybe even do a triathlon with him. Even though I may not be doing the Liverpool Rock & Roll Marathon with him, I hope that even though he is halfway across the world, he can be assured that I will cross the line and tell him at the end of it that I have accomplished my goal.
Despite all the things that had happened to me in the past, they still shaped me to who I am today. As much as I want to forget some things that have happened, they will always be part of me and I will continue to hold onto them as I run for the finish line during the Anglesea Half and finally, at the Liverpool Rock & Roll marathon.
Just to end this blog, I’m going to leave a quote from one of my favourite anime, where the main character is born in a world where Heroes are a thing and people have superpowers. While he wasn’t born with any superpowers, through perseverance and hard work, he finally managed to achieve his dreams and is now on an amazing journey with his friends to become the top hero. This quote has inspired me for a long time and I hope it inspires those of you who read this blog too.
Wish me luck in the Anglesea Half-Marathon and until you hear from me again, have a good week.
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