Don’t get me wrong…there are good forms of pressure out there! Pressure can make you more productive, help you meet deadlines, and keep you focused towards a goal. But this post is going to be about bad pressure…specifically how it affected me and a big decision I made at the start of the school year and how it will affect that same decision next year.
(be prepared…this is a really wordy post..sorry in advance to you guys who prefer food filled pics…those will return tomorrow ;))
My first season of high school cross country was actually in my sophomore year because I was involved in a production during the season the year before hand. I was really excited to join because I had done middle school cross country and had developed not only a passion for running, but it turn out I was pretty good at it too 🙂
Throughout summer practices and in to the school year a girl from my grade (will call her O) and I had been running the best times out of all the girls and were constantly neck and neck in practice runs. I had been beating her a little more often towards the start of the season and the team put me in the top starting position in races because of this.
When the first meet finally came I was so nervous and everyone on the team kept questioning and sort of betting on who would win, either me or my ‘friend’.
The race started, I pushed my hardest, and at the end pulled it out and won the race! I was so excited and even more happy that a bunch of our runners took top spots…with O coming in second behind me.
At this point I felt good, but as we began to run more and more races I would always get comments from other team members about keeping my so-called ‘title’ or if this would be the race that O finally passed me.
I would get so nervous on race days that I would get physically sick and feel awful all day before the meet. It was awful.
I would run each race with only one goal in mind….to beat O. It was no longer about the team or about my love of running, but about maintaining this role I had taken on the team. Everyone always commented on how well I was doing and about my times so often that I began to feel that I was only valuable to the team if I kept coming in the top spots.
To make things worse, as we prepared for sectionals I got a mild case pneumonia. I continued to run but the cold weather coupled with me feeling the need to push myself was horrible on my body. O was also starting to make backhanded remarks about how she was going to beat me at sectionals. She said how she would run at a lesser pace than me at sectionals so she could conserve energy and then blow by me at the end. I tried to let the comments go and just focus on myself and what I could as a runner.
When sectionals finally came, my pneumonia was really bad….not to mention it was 30 degrees outside. I ran as hard as I could, my chest throbbing with pain the whole run, and with a lot of trouble breathing, but came in behind O by a whole minute ( a lot for a race).
I was so upset. At myself, at the whole situation. I felt as if all I had worked for all season meant nothing because I had lost a single race to her.
After the season was over, I saw how flawed my thinking was. Team sports are, well, about the TEAM. But I got so hung up on beating one person because of the pressure the team was putting on me to be the best, that I lost sight of what was really important. The worst part of the whole thing was how awful I would feel before races. SO sick, nauseous, and full of butterflies.
So at the start of the school year, for my junior year, I decided not to rejoin the team. I just didn’t want to put myself through all that stress again. I started getting back to the running I like to do…no timing, no pacing, and up until recently, no track of mileage. I rediscovered my love of running……for fun!
But now I have a decision to make. My XC has already approached me about joining the team for next year. O will be a captain and after taking a year off from competitive racing, I don’t know if I will be up to the same level as I was before.
But aside from all of that…..I think I want to do it. I want to exercise my new understanding of running for enjoyment and see if I can apply it to a team situation. I just have to remember that it’s not all about being number one…its about running to the best of your ability every single race. I would rather go into a race feeling great and having fun and coming out with the best time I could get for that day than getting myself all worked up before hand, winning, and then worrying about the next race right after.
I am ready to do something for fun and pure enjoyment! I know it’s cliché but its true….winning isn’t everything. Knowing the way I felt when I was winning, I would take losing any day if I was having fun and enjoying what I was doing.
Okay this is becoming really lengthy! I just thought I would share a kind of personal story with you all.
So what about you: Have you had any negative pressure in your life? Maybe a similar situation to mine?
Have a great start to your week everyone!