We all have fears about trying something new. Nowhere is the fear of having a poor result more present than in sport. No one wants to see their name at the bottom of the list of results.
I am an avid follower of Robin Sharma, who is a great proponent of facing your fears. He says, “Run towards your fears. Embrace them. On the other side of your greatest fears lives your greatest life.”
Although I’ve participated in endurance sports my entire life – running, cycling and cross-country skiing, 2008 was my introduction to the sport of duathlon. Duathlon is like triathlon, but without the swimming, so it is a run-bike-run competition.
After a fairly successful first season in local races, I discovered that the Canadian Duathlon National Championships were being held in Montreal (only about a 7 hour drive away from where I live).
I also found out that if I competed there, I would stand a good chance of qualifying for the Age-Group World Championships in North Carolina the next year. But the problem was, I knew the competition would be far better than me.
Did I really want to drive 7 hours to take part in a race that I knew deep down, I had zero chance of doing well in? Intense fear and negative self-talk almost prevented me from taking part, but I participated anyway and came, you guessed it, dead last in my age group. But I still did well enough that I managed to qualify for Worlds the next year.
You’d think that the elation of qualifying for Worlds would be enough to set aside any future fears, but it actually only compounded it. At the World Championships, not only was I out of my league but our required uniform was made of red spandex. Stretchy red bike shorts on me….not my favourite look!
Race day came and so did the rain. I adjusted my goal to “not crashing on the bike, and not being last”. In the end, I missed my time goal and was second last in my age group, but it just didn’t matter…. I was able to compete at the international level, which is something I never imagined possible in my younger years.
When I hear friends use the fear of finishing last as a reason to not enter a competition, I say to them, what is so bad about finishing last? Is it embarrassment? Concern over what other people will think? What to say when people ask you how you finished?
It may be helpful to have your answer already prepared in your mind, such as
- I achieved my time goal
- I ran according to my plan of alternating running and walking
- I had a wonderful time outside on a beautiful day
- I loved helping to raise money for a great cause
- I spent a great morning outside with my friends
- I tried something for the first time in my life and I loved it!
And what if you do finish last? What if someone makes a negative comment to you about that?
Ask yourself, Why are they saying this? What does this comment say about them and their mindset? Do not let their negative comments take away from your achievement.
Fast forward to 2016, and I am now attempting to regain my fitness after several years of life upheaval. Just last weekend, I again finished last. This time it was not just last in my age group, but last overall. I was actually in last place within the first 10 metres of the race, and I held on to that place for the next 3 hrs and 18 minutes… but that’s a story for another blog post.
Bracebridge Duathlon, August 7th…. I would like to say I was finishing ahead of the guys in the picture below, but they were in the triathlon that started after the duathlon!
You will never know what you are truly capable of, until you try. Sign up for that event, use the fear to motivate you to train, stand on the starting line and know that you are pursuing something awesome. Focus on how proud you will be when you finish your first competition. When you cross that finish line, absorb the cheers of the crowd and be grateful for what you have just accomplished. Do not let the fear of finishing last prevent you from experiencing some of the great events that are out there.