Running Can Be Scary As He**, Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

Running is scary sometimes. Not in the ‘BOO!’ the Oogittity-boogitty Monster is chasing you, though that would surely get that turn-over moving, but in the fact that with running you must constantly be putting yourself out there.
blurry runner
Part of that funny feeling in your stomach and flurry of nerves that greets you on race day, and to a degree on hard workout days, is fear. Us runners don’t like to consciously admit that is what it is, because ADMITTING that there is fear works against us; burying that fear and words like ‘can’t’ are appropriate coping mechanisms to get us through those hard workouts and races. Words like fear, can’t, tired, and pain shouldn’t be leaking into our mental vocabulary.

Though, we can’t deny that these feelings exist and in order to overcome them DURING the races, the workouts, the long runs we have to be able to UNDERSTAND where they are coming from.

The fear comes from knowing there is the chance of failure.

Being afraid of failing, coming up short, losing, embarrassing ourselves in front of others, and having solid proof that we are not capable of something are what stop a LOT of people from accomplishing things they ARE capable of. What’s more are those feelings are the things that derail them from even trying in the first place. The truth is that it’s SO much easier to never try because at least that way we will never have concrete proof that you failed. But that not trying is just a cop-out.
tough runner
Running can be daunting as he** mostly because it can be hard as he**. No two ways about it; in order to achieve those goals you have to PUSH yourself, open yourself up to the chances of failure, of having to look that fear of starting dead in the eye and not blink.

Runners butt up against that fear on a constant basis, which is another reason it takes an insane amount of guts and fortitude to stick to our sport. Every time you go out for a run, the inevitable fact is that yes, you will be uncomfortable. Discomfort is like the base line for any run and it only goes up from there.

Fear of pain is a primal instinct, your body doesn’t WANT to hurt that bad. It is hard-wired to do all it can to avoid pain; in workouts and races we run towards that pain. The days we come out the mental victors are the days we must be insanely proud of and REMEMBER because the next day we’ll have to face the same pain again and strive to come out on the winning side again.

Running is like the revolving door in that sense; you don’t just beat out the pain and fear one day and then sha-bam you’re on the elevator to the top. You have to KEEP passing through the same gates, and yes, there will be days you wind up ‘wimping’ out mentally and take the wrong door. It happens to the best of us…we do ‘fail’ sometimes.

Though we can’t let ourselves be so consumed by the fear of failing that it screws with our mind. People can get hung-up on the times they aren’t so proud of and let the seeds of doubt bloom into this heinous Venus Fly Trap that eats them alive every time they step to the line. Recognize that there will always be highs and lows in running; you savor the highs and you stick through the lows.

To get through the lows it is comforting to know that 1) EVERYONE has them 2) EVERYONE is denying that little bit of fear mixed in there during pre-race/pre-workout jitters and nerves 3) the revolving door of running will always grant you another chance regardless of outcome.
keep running
Fear should never rule you, nor should the times where you maybe did wimp out mentally; that’s why during that warm-up and as you battle through that hard workout and races, fear should be banished from your mind. In those moments there is no such thing as fear, as can’t, as pain, as failure.

We can understand where these feelings are coming from, but after that, all the focus shall be placed on overcoming them, of putting ourselves out there day in and day out.
HERE is an article on how to channel pre-race nerves to your advantage.

HERE is an article on how to use the art of visualization to improve your hard workouts and races, another part of mental training.

HERE is an article on why it’s good to put yourself so far out there it’s scary.

The winner of the Ambler Heat Beanie is John Gash. Send me an email at and we’ll get you sent out your swag! 🙂

1) What are some of the other emotions mixed in there with pre-race and pre-workout jitters?

2) How do you set your goals for running, races, times, etc.? How do you make sure they are big enough to ‘scare’ you a little bit?

3) Name a time where you definitely pushed through to another level of pain tolerance? Brag on your fine self! 🙂

best running shirts

Related posts:

25 thoughts on “Running Can Be Scary As He**, Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

  1. I’ve been struggling so much lately with the mental side of running, and being unable to break through and get a great long run in again. I’m definitely guilty of being scared of “failing”.

    I’m also constantly practising visualizing success, visualizing how it feels to finish a great workout, run, etc. It works! Positive thinking!

    • i’m SO happy to hear u’re visualizing because that will really help u break thru a little running funk. and trust me, u’ll be breaking thru very soon girl! 🙂

  2. Jeepers girl your blog is PURE gold. I will admit though that it was only recently that I had ever experienced pre-race nerves and it seems that now they are here to stay. I think before I was just running for fun and not really pushing myself. Now I have crazy goals and expectations and am STRETCHING myself and as you said – MIGHT FAIL. That is scary.

    Usually I am duanted by the training not the race. Racing is a whole new world for me now and I love that I can learn so much from wonderful runner/bloggers like you! :=)

    • This is such a great post!!! Having been someone who was considered a good runner, and then suffered an injury and being asked all the time whats happened to you at races, kind of stopped me from even wanted to try any more. That fear can be paralyzing. This post is really motivating thanks for sharing it 🙂

      • do NOT let that fear or the past injuries stop u from getting right back to it…don’t let the fear control u. injuries come with the territory but so do the come-right-back’s. 🙂 and yes, i made that a term. hehe

    • awww, b’gosh! and u kno it’s likewise chica. 🙂 and nerves are a good thing, trust me, my mom has a saying she’d tell me before my races, “i’m glad u’re nervous. it means u care. i’d be worried if u WEREN’T nervous.”

  3. Anything that’s a challenge is mental. I due believe in positive visualization and self talk. With that being said, I’ve yet to meet the goals in my head. Mostly because there are too many and I need to narrow them down. 🙂

  4. Wow did this hit me where it hurt today! I found myself giving up on a run half way through (don’t worry, I ended up brining it home…but yeah).

    Thanks Cait – I’m going to hold onto this one!

    • ur welcome super kate! 🙂 hold onto it and remember during all those tough points in runs we ALL struggle with the same mental beasts and u’re doing an awesome job of slaying them one at a time…keep it up. 🙂

  5. Pre race nerves are not good – they make my tummy work and this is not good- the line for the ladies is always so long!!!! They do however focus you and help you get to your best time…. must just learn how to handle them:)

    • well, make sure u get that porta-potty!! hehe…but nerves are a GOOD thing…u can channel them to help step up ur game. just don’t let them work against u.

  6. This is such a great post Cait! It’s so funny that you post this too. I look forward to getting my schedule so much, but there is always this crazy tummy roll when I think about it because I know the longer I partake in the wonderful world of running, the longer my miles are going to be and need to be. Um, that scares me. Not like a scary monster kind of way, but oh crap kind of way! 🙂 Part of that fear is failure, but part of it is that I am going to run this, I am going to do it, and I will finish, but oh crap it means I have to do it again. 🙂
    Fear, in some cases, feeds my energy. “The fear comes from knowing there is a chance of failure.” <<love this!

  7. Thank you Cait! This was a perfect read before my long run tomorrow – the first time I have tackled a 10 mile run in quite a while….
    Sometimes fear can be a good thing I think because it acts as a warning sign to remind us where the edges of our comfort zone are, and where we need to push in order to grow as people. Most of the things I have done in life that have truly scared me are the things that have truly enabled me to grow and become a bigger, better version of myself, to move towards my authentic Amy.
    I will be sure not to let fear rule me tomorrow, and as extra incentive I will wear my ‘run your fortune’ t-shirt so I know the wonderful Arty Runner Chick will be watching over me 🙂

    • awww, amy, this comment really did make my day! u are the sweetest and u better believe this crazy arty runnerchick from the states is ALWAYS on ur shoulder, even when my shirt is all sweaty and left in the laundry. 😉 but really, u’re doing an awesome job training for this race and so….how did that long run go?!!? 🙂 XOXO

  8. I love this and agree so much. Yesterday I ran in a race and won my age group, well I wore my medal all day and went to the Mexican restaurant. The lady who rang me up said she wanted to do a 5K one day and just never had… we had a nice little conversation and I basically summed it up saying just get out there, don’t be scared because nobody cares about your time much except you, and no matter what, you beat everyone on the couch! I read somewhere that your biggest competitor isn’t any other runner, it’s the inches between your ears- so true!

  9. Another great post, Cait!

    Fear has been with me from the start of running. We need to get over it simply to start, as many of us had very little running experience to begin with. Personally, I thought I could never be a runner (too fat, lazy, bad joints, excuses, blah), but once fear and doubt was cast aside, I discovered a new side of myself. I continue to achieve goals, impress myself and move forward.

    • thanks, Tyler! and you certainly took a 180 over there…i love how much runners, once they get into it, are able to overcome any of the obstacles they previously made them ‘not a runner’. i think the runner mentality just keeps taking over and pushing them further and further…u’ve been kicking butt over there! 🙂

  10. Great post Cait! I agree that it is always good to remember that even if you fail one day, there is always tomorrow. We can’t dwell in our failures but need them to motivate us to try again and again. It is amazing what we can do if we just put our mind to it and keep thinking positively.

  11. Pingback: A Runner’s Selective Amnesia: Push out memories of the crappy runs to keep room for the epic ones |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *