The Running Pianist is now back in full force with the upcoming New York City Marathon on November 6th!
Yes, performance anxiety has followed me from the music performance world to the land of amateur running. There's a period of time before a race the length of a marathon when most people cut back their active training markedly. This means cutting their distance and time running up to 70-80%.
Rest is crucial in recovery and making sure we're at peak performance, but it can be hard, especially when the race date is arriving soon and you're kicking your feet up more. My natural inclination is to always do more and push and push until the moment I've been preparing for. (I just had a flashback to my 2nd year master's recital when I was cramming memory work in the hour before my recital)
With a race like a marathon though, the body needs a chance to recover so that you can push it to do what you want on race day. This means more rest, and the chance for the brain to run circles around itself, questioning every aspect of your training, time itself, and what is life?! I joke, but only a little bit.
With time to think about preparation and this exciting event for which you've been preparing for so long, questions are bound to kick in: Did I do enough? What if I'm not prepared? What if I have an injury and don't know it? What if I forget how to run? (Yes, I have thought this seriously)
It's natural to worry about something you care about, but if I let that worry take over, it can be draining. Instead, I try to let it spur on positive and productive things.
If I'm worried about injury, I do motion, flexibility, and stretching exercises. If I'm worried about running too fast or slow on race day, I study the course and think about my plan. If I'm scared for any number of reasons, I watch videos and visualize myself going through the race day.
Visualization is an incredibly valuable exercise for anything that involves a performance of any sort. It can also help with anxiety in general. I carry a lot of social anxiety in my daily life, but I also teach more than 100 students in various settings, perform and speak publicly, and share my inner-most creative ideas for the world to see. Visualization helps me to make unfamiliar circumstances more comfortable, and to allow myself to have a plan for any situation involving other people.
I've explored these ideas much more in my musical and performance life but have realized the value of them in other activities, such as running. So, as I become more and more excited leading up to this Sunday, I am trying to soak in this special feeling, reach out to those who might know what I am going through, and to reassure myself that I am where I am at this point of time. Nothing more, nothing less, but exactly what I am, and that's okay. Even more than okay, it's the best!
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