Annihilation: Facing Fear and Doubt During Training

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By Kerrie Kerkmankerriejo

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” – Pema Chodron

I have learned to embrace the exposure to annihilation regularly, although often I am wincing as I open myself to its impact. It seems to be woven into my existence and without it perhaps life would be empty.

967.  This is the number of miles I have run since New Year’s Day when I started to train for my 100 mile race. Through the challenge of my 12 to 14 hour work days and several major life changes, I have been as consistent as possible in my commitment to training. With a barely healed broken foot and several big curve balls headed my way, I fought for balance much the way one would while standing on a see saw. One small move in the wrong direction had me shifting and waving my arms wildly.

In any training I have done, for any event, Fear and Doubt have been my typical companions faithful companions. It is rare when they skip a day, showing up to mock me on the bad days and hugging my shoulder on good days. I have tried uninviting them to the party, yet they show up time and again with an invitation directly addressed. To me from you, it reads the same each time.  Doubt knows all of my weak spots, hitting the button that starts the same tape over and over. “ You didn’t really run it all, you slowed down to walk when you ate and you did have to stretch that cramp out”, “ You can’t take your time drinking and grabbing fuel during the run you know? You are not going to be able to keep this pace during the actual race.”  “You will probably finish last”.  Its repertoire is endless.  Fear shows up a little different, but no less relentless. The versions of “What if” are unceasing and there is no failure scenario I have not imagined.  I vow to leave them behind yet, I wind up taking them along despite my best intentions.

So with all of that chattering in my head through many of my runs, the normal aches and pains that come with running and the few extra that I have, why do I keep doing it?  And maybe the better question, why do I feel so much worse on the days I don’t run?

I am no different than anyone else, despite the perception some have.  I have mornings that I want to stay in bed and days I am too tired or hurt too bad to want to run.  Yet I get dressed and go anyway.

Simple. The word annihilate comes from the Latin annihilare which means “to reduce to nothing”.  I don’t believe running annihilates me exactly.  But Fear and Doubt don’t just show up to my running party. They also show up at work, when I teach, in my practice and business, in my relationships and just about everywhere else I am. They are persistent and indiscriminate party crashers.  They are there when I get dressed in the morning and catch a glimpse of my not so good side in the mirror. Their laughter is in my ear when I walk into a classroom or a gym studio to teach.  Subliminally they taunt me in the most unexpected moments.  And although they show up for the run each time, my run is the most powerful way I know to shut them up. Whatever else the world throws at me, I know that after the annihilation is complete, when I have pushed myself to the limit, in that temporary fatigue I am a bit more indestructible. Please don’t confuse indestructible with a lack of vulnerability and humility.  It is the confidence of knowing I have fought them another day. It means knowing any of the battles that come my way can be handled.  At the end of my run I have been reduced to nothing, my mind calmed and my body fatigued and somehow in this state of nothing is where I find my peace and still moments.

Philippians 3:14
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize….

Kerrie is a counselor, coach, writer and runner living in Wisconsin.  She is the co-owner of Esprit Counseling & Consulting and a thriving coaching practice. She enjoys anything related to running and outdoor sports, and any free time usually is spent with her three dogs hitting the trails. Click here for her blog. 

Last modified: May 23, 2013

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