Right now I’m sat in bed having the laziest of mornings watching the BUCS Outdoor Athletics Champs happening over in Bedford on Vinco. BUCS was always my favourite competition and one of the things I miss most about being a student.
The last few years haven’t exactly panned out the way I wanted in regards to my athletics. Whether I didn’t train to my full potential or just took on too much whilst at Uni I don’t know, but I haven’t run a PB in a few years now and during my second year put on enough weight that it slowed me quite significantly. Not running how you want or feel that you can is one of the most dis-heartening feelings. Picking yourself up after a slow race, taking a deep breath and then getting back to it and building up to the next one is hard. It’s even harder when this happens a few times in a row or a couple of seasons in a row.
I was fairly apprehensive about writing a post about my anxiety and how it relates to my athletics because there’s always the worry of giving your competitors any sort of mental advantage. Yet, I feel that it is so important because my athletics is one of the bigger triggers in my life and anxiety in sport isn’t talked about enough. I have always been the sort of person to put a lot of pressure on myself. Many people would say that I don’t seem to expect a lot of myself and to an extent when I was younger I was always fairly surprised by some of the things I achieved – yet at the same time I know exactly how I want to be running and feel that I should be running and that is what sets off my anxiety.
So many people put so much into my athletics: my parents are the most supportive people and I wouldn’t have even found my love for the sport if my mum hadn’t driven me to training and pushed me to try new things. I definitely wouldn’t have stayed in the sport without my dad always teaching me to be resilient and never give up. My coaches over the years have also given up so much of their time helping me to become the best I can – starting with Ray inspiring my passion for athletics to Gary who kept me going with his laid-back nature and huge smile and finally to Matt whose belief and commitment is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. The idea of letting not only myself but these people down has, in the past, become almost crippling. Yet I am determined to PB and feel that rush that makes everything worth it.
It’s not solely the outcome of the race which can trigger my anxiety, even just being in a place surrounded by people who are ridiculously lean with a perfect set of abs is enough to set me off. Like so many other girls and guys, I have constant thoughts related to my body image. It isn’t that I am unhappy with how I look, and compared to the average person I’m pretty satisfied, but these people that I’m constantly surrounded by are crazy amazing.
Yet no matter how I run, I’ve always loved the whole experience of competitions like BUCS. Whilst at BUCS, I got to see friends from around the country who I could spend time and laugh with before we had to battle it out for medals on the track. There’s nothing quite like the support you get from other athletes – regardless of the fact that athletics is an individual sport. Maybe it’s because outside of the athletics bubble, no one quite understands the work and emotional investment that’s put into running a 14 second race. Maybe it’s that you support your friends and some of the best friends I have are from the sport. Maybe it’s just from a shared love of the sport. Either way BUCS is one of the best showcases of how athletes support each other and a great opportunity to watch some great athletics and I wish I was there.
My outdoor season opens next weekend and having drawn a line under indoors and worked hard to bounce back, I’m excited (if not a little anxious) to enjoy racing again.