Last Saturday, I was supposed to participate in my first 5K since moving back to Texas this summer. The 5K was to benefit the Animal Defense League, a no-kill animal shelter that I love (and where we got our first two kitties, Ash and Christabel!). Between that 5K and my son’s birthday party that afternoon, I accepted the sad loss of Readathon. I picked up my race packet a couple days before the 5K, and fell absolutely in love with the fantastic shirt they included. As the day approached, though, I grew ever more anxious.
There were plenty of reasons to feel anxious. There was a ton to prep for the birthday party and we would be cramming all that into a very tiny amount of time because of the 5K. My stomach hadn’t been doing too well during the mornings all week and I didn’t want to get sick while out walking. The location of the 5K was a place I’d never been, and I’m always anxious about going to new places for the first time. My insomnia was flaring badly and I hadn’t slept a full night in days. Etc.
But the night before the 5K, I tried to express all this to Jason and had a little ah-ha moment about the true source of my anxiety. I’ve done a lot of fitness events, 5Ks, walks, jump rallies, and more over the last eight years – but every single one I’ve done with friends or family. Sometimes we stay together on the course, sometimes we only hang out before and after. It doesn’t really matter either way. It’s just being there with someone else who is participating that wipes away the anxiety. Not even having Jason and the boys there for a cheer-squad (like I was supposed to have for this 5K) will help. I’ve signed up for a few 5Ks and such over the years that, in the end, I didn’t attend. If the non-participation isn’t due to weather, it’s always been due to my being alone.
Back in December 2012, I signed up for a mud run. A group of friends were all supposed to come, and every single one of them canceled last minute. I managed to swallow my anxiety and go, but it was a hard thing, to the point where I was overly obsessed with minute details like whether I was wearing appropriate clothes for mud-running and how I would deal with cleanup afterwards so that I didn’t destroy our car. I thought maybe I’d be less anxious once I arrived. Instead, I just felt worse. There were all these groups of people hanging around in matching outfits, and I was alone even when standing with Jason and the boys. This was an expensive run and a bucket goal of mine, and still I just wanted to turn around and go home. I ended up finding a group of people that day – the wife of a distant acquaintance of mine had a group that invited me in – and I enjoyed the run. At the same time, I still felt like an outsider just hanging on to strangers. I wished I was there with friends.
Long story short: I didn’t go to the 5K last weekend, and I realized something important about myself. Time will tell if I decide to work on my anxiety so that I can do these things alone, or if I’ll save myself the effort and just sign up for 5Ks with groups.