Worry Warts

This past weekend marked an exciting time of year; the beginning of track season! As much as I love cross, there’s nothing like stepping onto solid rubber (or mondo in this case) and getting that smooth and fast feel. Our team traveled to Birmingham, Alabama for our first indoor race. Half of us ran the 3k and the other half the mile. The last two years I’ve basically stuck with the mile every race, but for this meet I went with the 3k to mix things up, and get a good workout that would give me a time for the fast heat of future races. As the race approached, I wasn’t too nervous. Instead I was kind of in shock. I couldn’t believe it was already track season and here I was about to race. Seems like just yesterday I was lining up for my first cross race. Anyways, time flies, as I’ve said before. So here I was, thinking about the 15 laps that lie ahead of me and I couldn’t help but laugh as I thought back to my very first high school track race.
       It was an indoor 3200m in Oberlin, Ohio. I remember being so nervous for this race. Funny thing is, it wasn’t the competition or lack of confidence in my fitness that scared me, it was the fact that I had 16 laps to run and I was so terrified I would lose track of my laps and not know when to step off the track (I obviously had no idea there were such things as lap counters!) I remember telling my coach to make sure he would count and yell the number of laps REALLY loud. I even asked my friend to come to the race and we joked that she would stand next to the track with sheets of paper displaying the number of laps left. (Exactly the concept of a lap counter that I clearly had never seen). Well when it came time for that race and I toed the line with my competition I remember being terrified. That is, until I noticed the white sign to the left of the start line that displayed the number 16. Wow, so maybe it wasn’t my idea after all! Either way, my fear suddenly faded away and “BANG!” the gun went off before I even had a chance to get nervous or even think about everything else there was to consider besides knowing which lap I was on. Now, I cannot remember what place or time I ended up finishing, but the funny thing I do remember was getting lapped (I think by Emily Infeld,) and because of that, the lap counter was thrown off to match the leader’s number of laps left. Well obviously, it didn’t matter too much. I finished the race just fine and had no problem figuring out when I was done. As soon as I finished it became clear how silly and foolish it was of me to be so worried about losing track of the laps.
      As I lined up for my 3k Saturday, I wasn’t worried about miscounting the 15 laps that lie ahead. But to say I had now worries in the world would be a lie. No matter how fit you are, how low key or early in the season the race is, there are always a few worries that come with the usual nerves and excitement. Where my shoes tied tight enough? Was my mouth too dry? What if I get boxed in? Would my quad feel okay? The list goes on… These little worries are, to my knowledge, completely natural to every runner who takes racing seriously. In fact as long as they don’t cause a colossal meltdown, they’re usually a sign your heart rate is up, you’re ready to go, and as soon as you hear that “BANG!” they disappear instantly. Its when these worries carry into the middle of your race, hold you back and slow you down that they become a problem. As Proverbs 12:25 says, “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” When I first read this, I was thinking, ” Well that’s nice, but having people cheer you on with words of encouragement  before a race can sometimes only add to the “nerves/worry  factor.” Think about it, put yourself in a stadium with 100,000 people there to watch you run and tell me you wouldn’t be a bit more worried than if you ran a time trial? But then, it dawned on me.  I don’t run for 100,000 people each time I toe the line. I run for someone and something even bigger. When I’m running, God is watching. And who better to turn to when you’re worried and you need a word of encouragement to lift you up?  Now, a lot of people will agree that the biggest problem with pre-competition prayers is that they can quickly become a sort of ritual or repetitive superstitious action to wish luck upon oneself. In fact, our team bible study was just discussing last week how teams who pray the Our Father often say the words, “Thy will be done,” without even realizing that this contradicts what is in their hearts. Instead, they are really asking God that their own “will” be done, and that their race plays out to their own personal benefit. To be honest, I’ve been guilty of this. But over the last year or so I’ve really been trying a lot to make sure my pre-race prayers are less about me and more a form of thanks for the opportunity that lies on the start line. When you think about it that way, asking God for His will to play out, knowing that some things are out of control, it really takes a weight off your own shoulders when you head into competition. It takes away the weight of worry.  So next time you line up before a big race, or any race for that matter, and all of those worries start creeping into your head, ask yourself whether you are able to allow God’s will to be done in this race. Will you run your best and leave the rest up to fate and accept the outcome no matter what? Or will you stand there shaking nervously frantically worrying about every little thing that could or should go wrong?

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