Overcoming the fear of the unknown to win a 5K.
Wing Ding Festival, winning, 5K, running, focus, race
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by: William Dyson

The fear of the unknown is one of the more powerful butterfly-inducing and nerve-wracking experiences one will encounter. The trick, although difficult, is to not let that fear consume you. Once it grabs you it becomes very difficult to shake. Everyone’s been there. Your thoughts float to elements that are out of your control. Your focus begins to waver. You begin to worry what others think or what others can do and forget about your internal thoughts and what you can do. It’s not easy, but you can’t let that fear consume you.

I almost let that fear take over Saturday morning. Almost. I admit, with roughly 50 runners the Wing Ding 5K wasn’t the most populated 5K I’ve run. There were no rubber mats for chip timing. Bibs were pieces of 8.5” x 11” paper. Even still, fear began creeping in. The race started at 9 a.m. What if the warmer temperatures sap my energy quicker than anticipated? What if I start out too fast and ignore my strategy? What if someone beats me?

For the first time, I had trained for the sole purpose of winning. I wrote about winning. I had talked about wanting to win with several other runners who’ve won races before. Two hours before the race my mind began to flood with thoughts of my alligator mouth overloading my hummingbird ass. I tried to remain calm and collected, but in reality I couldn’t wait to start. I fumbled with my bib. I nervously paced back and forth. I jogged an easy half mile in an attempt to calm my nerves. Wanting to win, expecting to win, is a weird concept.

The race began on time with warmer than anticipated temperatures and a firm southerly wind, which rudely introduced itself on the second half of the out-and-back course. Several excited runners got a quick jump from the start and took off ahead of me. Instead of following the plan I had built, I sped up to pass them as quickly as I could. Dumb. After passing them, I tried feverishly to slow my pace back down to get back on track. For some reason I couldn’t. Dumb. A road I’d driven a thousand times now seemed to go on forever. For the first five minutes, I looked at my watch every 20 seconds. Dumb.

About a mile in, something clicked. I wish it’d clicked earlier, but I’m glad it clicked when it did. I relaxed. I just ran. No thoughts of others. No thoughts of the wind. My only focus was keeping a good pace and barreling up the slow and steady incline ahead of me. I quit looking at my watch. I began to breathe in the fresh air. I kept my arms pumping to maintain the form I’d worked on. I’ve read and spoken with runners about the intense burning that occurs when you’re pushing yourself to limits you rarely experience. That burning kicked in a little after mile two. I kept pushing, knowing that every step brought me closer to my goal.



I finished first overall with a time of 21:30. My finishing time wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but the end results was. My training paid off. The time was a PR for me and my GPS informed me the 5K included an extra .15 miles. Seven family members entered the race and seven family members finished. Everyone pushed themselves in their own way; I can only imagine the thoughts they entertained. Everyone took their own path to Saturday morning and everyone took their own path on Saturday morning. My girlfriend finished first in her age group. My sister-in-law finished third in the same group. My mom finished third in her age group. My niece made her first 5K look easy. My other sister-in-law finished strong and is sure to enter more races. My sister pushed pushed through the heat and wants to push her training to run the 3M Half Marathon. I’m proud of everyone and their efforts. Now to better those efforts and get more people to run next year! And time for me to find my next race.

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