That feeling you have at the starting line
Every race has a starting line. Some know where it exists very well and others do their best to avoid being anywhere close. Regardless of where you stand in the mass of other racers at the start of the race, you likely experience the same starting line jitters. But imagine if you will, standing on that front line. No one ahead of you and everyone behind you. How does that feel?
As you begin to improve as a racer, you are naturally drawn to the front of the pack and the starting line. Getting there has its hardships. You question if you belong as close to the line are you are currently standing. You question if you are faster than the people behind you. Are you feeling it this particular morning? Did you train enough last week – last month? Questions like these and more begin to swarm in you head, until one day you have answered these questions and uncertainties and moved up to the very front of the pack – the starting line.
Typically a line on the ground or a string of tape across the start, this “line” marks the front – the very front. If you are standing at this line, you don’t have the wind at your back but a mob of people looking at running faster than the person next to them and faster than you. So standing at this line isn’t always the easiest mental thing to do. Rather it is probily the hardest thing to do – especially for the first time.
As a vetran racer, you learn to quiet your head and focus. Focus on the race ahead, on the images of yourself running fast and winning and of the concrete facts you must address in order to maintain your startting line position. Many times this is a continuation of the imagery and focus you used during your warm up. In this sea of focused energy, there are many times, oppertunites to say hello to fellow competitors, many of whome you have raced against before. This adds yet another level of refocusing. “Shoot, Joe is here today. He is a great hill runner. This course suits him well. How am I going to attack his pace…” And the same goes for Joe, who is likely sizing you up as well.
Eventually, the time for all of this nervous energy to meet the road has come as the announcer begins their speech or countdown. You can feel the energy from the people behind you begin to physically push you forward. It is almost as if they are breathing down your thought – they actually are. You can feel the starting line of competitors tighten up and begin to squeeze you in. Some begin a pre-race ritual of jumping or dancing in order to shed some of their nervous energy. Eventually, you hear the starting countdown begin. The air goes quiet, everyones breathing calms. As the pack leans forward in anticipation of a sprint, you feel the weight of you decision on your back as well as the weight of the person behind you. Your moment is happening in 3…2…1…bang!
Those first few steps are made with the power of a thoroughbred. Before you know it, you are off and running and for better or worse, you are either holding a good position or being passed by the mob behind you. This is the moment that answers all of your questions about your decision to be at the front of the pack – but that will have to wait because there is a race to be run – to be won!
Now you have another set of thoughts to address. Is that runner going out too fast? Can they keep that pace? But that is for another blog.
Note: Remember, being at the starting line comes with a high level of assumed edicite. Being their only to have your photo taken and not be able to maintain a top finishing position affects someone else’s opportunity to push forward, possibly adversely affecting their race. Be sure you are at the starting line for the right reasons.